For the 100 students at Boys Primary School Konodas, there are seven teachers. Of them, only two teachers were in school last week, while the rest were “about to return soon.”
With such few teachers, there is little to do in class and majority of the students were seen wandering outside the classroom. But despite this, the students seem determined and have high aspirations. “I want to be a doctor and for that I need to get admission in a good school after my primary education,” said a fifth grade student Shahzeb, seemingly sure of his future plans.
The parents, however, are grateful for what they have. Essa Khan, whose child studies at the school said that he was lucky the education was free. “What else could a man like me do, but to avail the opportunity? Do you think I can afford to enrol my son in a private school?” he said.
The school is barely 100 meters away from the central directorate of education of the capital city. For the schools located in remote valleys of district Diamer, Astore, Ghizer and Ghanche, the condition is much worse.
Often during winters, schools in the valley remain cut off due to heavy snowfall. Despite the harsh winters, there are many schools without buildings, drinking water, furniture and other basic facilities.
According to the 1998 census, the literacy rate in the region was 37 per cent, but the education department claims that it has now increased to 50%.
Chief Minister Mehdi Shah says that education is the topmost priority of his government, with 11.4% of the budget allocated to education. Shah claims his government has resolved the decades-long issues of teachers, enabling them to concentrate on education instead of politics.
But there are some things that go contrary to the government’s claims. In the heart of Gilgit city, the region’s first educational institution, a primary school built in 1893 that was later upgraded to a high school, was demolished for “security reasons” and to meet modern-day requirements. Historians call the school the “Aligarh University” of the region. But nearly nine years after the building was demolished, the structure lies incomplete.
Number of schools
Presently, the district has 1,300 primary schools in valleys across the region, with over 2,800 teachers employed of whom 1,000 are women. The qualification of most of the teachers in the primary schools ranges from Matriculation to a B.A. Students enrolled in these schools are 82,071, of which more than 40,000 are girls, according to government statistics.
Edited by Zehra Abid
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2011.