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KARACHI, Sept 4: The parents of children studying at the Jufel Hurst School on Tuesday broke a Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA) seal and tore up a notice that declared certain sections of the historical British school building structurally unsafe.

“This school is where my parents used to study, where I studied, and now I want my children to study here as well,” said Naureen Abbasi, a parent. “We belong to the Pakhtun community and have serious reservations about sending our young children to far away schools. Jufel Hurst’s location is ideal for us. We won’t let this school close down,” she said.

Another mother in a black burqa said that the school maintained excellent standards despite the building’s dilapidated condition. “The students here get top marks in matric every year. The school also offers hope for poor orphaned children whose widowed mothers, like myself, cannot afford to pay their fees,” she said. “My children don’t have a father but it was under this roof that the two elders got to make something of themselves. Now both are pursuing their higher studies while my youngest child is a class three student here. I want him to pass out of here with honours as well,” she said.

“Please don’t let them close down this school.”

Meanwhile, some old schoolboys, who have formed their association, gave the school’s history. “This school was started with three rooms on Feb 1, 1931, by its founder Miss Sybil D’ Abreo without any motive for profit or livelihood involved. She had no funds, just inexhaustible energy and eagerness to help the young ones of the city. Education was her hobby and her parents allowed her to use three rooms in their house and a few items of furniture. From there, the school grew adding two classes every year. The school stood strong through World War II followed by Partition when Karachi’s population grew. Soon they had to start a second shift,” said Ather Aslam Farooqui.

“Miss D’ Abreo had named the school ‘Jufel’ by taking the first two letters from her mother’s name ‘Julie’ and the first three letters from her father’s name ‘Felix’,” said another old boy Mr Hammad. “So you can imagine how much she loved this school and how much she cared for its students,” he added.

“She lived right here in her house on the one-acre land. The school was nationalised in 1974 after which the government paid Miss D’ Abreo rent for running it on her premises. The building in which the school is located is very old like the house behind it. Miss D’ Abreo passed away in 1987 and the government didn’t maintain the building, which should be declared a heritage site anyway. Still, it kept on paying the rent, which was then being collected in the court,” he gave more background.

When some old boys visited the school some time back they were shocked to find it in such a bad condition. Even though the school is still functioning in two shifts with some 1,200 students studying there, the roof of some rooms had fallen down while a few portions had been sealed by the KBCA. Their association generated enough funds to mend the roof in a couple of the rooms but only to be stopped to go any further through a court notice.

A relative of Miss D’ Abreo’s, a long lost nephew, has turned up laying claim to the property. It is being said that he lives abroad and is not interested in keeping the school and has even got several good offers for the land from the powerful building mafia in the locality. But the old students and parents of current students want to save the school.

That was why on Tuesday they arranged a small programme to highlight the issues regarding Jufel Hurst School amid the sound of concrete mixers in the background in the up and coming prime residential area ideal for high-rise apartment blocks. The event was attended by several government officials and politicians.

Former area counsellor Sher Baz Khan said: “How can the government think about closing down a school which gives the best results in board exams every year?”

Mohabbat Khan, a respected senior citizen belonging to the locality, wondered where the children would go if the school was closed down.

Mohammad Hussain Mahenti, chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami Karachi chapter, who also resides in the vicinity, said that he had heard that Miss D’ Abreo’s body was discovered after several days in her home as she lived alone and had no relatives. “I wonder where this relative, who has appeared now, has come from as there had been no sign of him when she died or when she was being laid to rest,” he said. “The children of Jamshed Road and Patel Para will suffer badly with the closing down of the school,” he regretted. “We can’t let this happen. It is a conspiracy and we will resist it whatever it takes,” he said.

The programme was also to be attended by Sindh Senior Minister for Education and Literacy Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq who couldn’t come due to the death of a relative. Still, he sent his message through Jamshed Town Officer Syed Arif who said the minister had asked him to convey to them that “The seals will break and the children will carry on studying here.” This prompted the already agitated parents present on the occasion to go ahead and break the seals put there by the KBCA, which they did.