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■ The road that led to girls’ education in Kohistan (2011/02/28)

Students in front of the new school.

The school building project as the second phase of Pakistan’s flood emergency response project (ERP) in Kohistan and Shangla (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province) is making great progress despite severe weather conditions and difficulties in accessibility. Eleven out of twenty schools have been completed and about 1,200 students who were taking classes outdoors in freezing temperatures have secured a warm and safe space to continue their -education. I should mention that, at the school opening ceremony, it was very rewarding to see those children happily receiving the new school material packages, as if they were receiving some treasures.

The remaining nine schools are also near completion and the PTA trainings and children’s competitions will follow along the line. We are expecting those who have been absent to school ever since the flood last summer will return back once the school buildings are reconstructed. It is our pleasure to see people’s lives being improved as a result of providing infrastructures such as schools, roads and bridges. I would like to share with you an incident where an infrastructure changed community’s attitude towards education. Among the schools we had constructed in this ERP 2nd phase, there is one boys’ school called GPS Kando.

A man who demands
education for girls.

The village of Kando is in a remote area that is surrounded by beautiful mountains above 3,000 meters high. It was at my fourth visit to the village just before completion of the school. About seven to eight old men in their traditional Kohistani huts and covered in wool shawls stepped in close to me and expressed their appreciation towards Japan Platform(JPF) and KnK for providing them the school shelters and the efforts to reactivate education in their village. They were very grateful for the school shelters which assure a secure place for their children to study from now on. We all sat around the school together drinking fresh goat milk chai talking about the community’s daily routines. While we were talking, one of the eldest men in the circle, as he was watching a curious girl who was peering at us from far away, started very slowly but confidently appealing that they now wish for having a girls’ school in their village.

Schools for girls never took place in the village of Kando. Those men in the village said that they never had any interest in educating their girls, in fact, they were very much against the idea until recently. There is always a trend of intolerance towards girls’ education in remote areas such as Kohistan, so it was not a surprise for me. But then there was the road constructed which connected them from their village to Karakoram Highway about five to six years ago. They said that the road had transported people, material, food and all kinds of necessary things including information from all other areas. The information changed them to think that the education is important and essential for girls for girls as well as boys. I asked other younger men in the circle, “ Do you think that educating girls is important?” The answer was “ Yes of course!” What is carried on the road is not only material but also the role of connecting people’s hearts from here to there. I was very impressed and please to see the change that one type of physical infrastructure led to even in the very remote area in the mountains such as Kando.

Village people also want education for girls.

The District of Kohistan is ranked worst in terms of literacy rate in Khyber Pkhtunkhwa, the worst province of Pakistan. The rate is 11.1 % in which the girls rate 2.9% in the district. It may be true that this illiteracy is due to the lack of people’s interest towards education. However, information is prerequisite to the interest. If one does not have the information on what education is and how it has an effect in one’s life, it is understandable that one stays uninterested. As the name signifies as “the land of mountains,” Kohistan is surrounded by and located in mountains which keep its people and community inaccessible to others. The earthquake in 2005 damaged more than 400 schools but the government left almost all of them un-repaired or un-reconstructed due to the inaccessibility. This flood from last summer had a severe impact on 112 schools in Kohistan, but no other organizations besides KnK had been here for assistance. I am not sure how long it will take for the dream of people of Kando to become true since the government has to be involved to come up with the addition in their school list. However, the people of Kando are very motivated and inspired to put any effort into educating their girls. I just hope that this kind of inspiration will spread to other areas and can move the government some day.

Reported by MaikoErizabesu Sato (Project Coordinator)
Nonprofit Organization Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi (KnK)
4-3-22 ShimoOchiai Shinjuku-ku Tokyo 161-0033 Japan
Tel:03-6279-1126  Fax:03-6279-1127
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