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■ A Small School Growing Like a Young Sprout  (2012/05/01)


pakistan photoThe Indus River calmly flows through the tall mountains of Pakistan. Pakistan, in addition to being known for this major river, is a country that is known for and has a long history – which I certainly recall learning a long time ago in elementary school. This country I deeply admire experienced a destructive earthquake in 2005. With much destroyed, Children Without Borders has been involved in restoring and repairing schools in the area.

Islamabad, the capital city as well as the place in which we disembarked, was a calm town with vast farmland. Mansehra District, the place in which we visit frequently, is quite difficult to get to. From Islamabad, it is necessary to drive around the mountain rather than through it, which takes four hours. I was continually captivated by the scenery and landscape that I saw outside my car window. There were flowers that bloomed just like cherry blossoms, scenery of rice fields that seemed to continue on forever, goats meandering, donkeys carrying loads on their backs, lavishly decorated trucks driving by; the journey was far from boring - it was very fun and exciting.

Our activities here involve the rebuilding of schools funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Together with the local NGO, “Friends Welfare Association” we are involved in the effort to rebuild schools in this area. During my time in Pakistan, we visited seven schools in the Mansehra District. Because no school was easily accessible, the drive was quite long involving winding roads alongside the winding valleys. For this reason, we saw two to three schools a day. One school was located in an area that reminded me of Japan’s Satoyama landscape. Another school was located on the steep slope of a tall mountain. Another school located when you drive across the river.

The newly built schools, no matter how far you are from the area, are easily recognizable with the cute, “red roof, blue pillar.” These school buildings are quite different from the school buildings in Japan. These school buildings have two to three classrooms with the bathroom detached from the main building. The schools were built with limited space so there is not playground of any kind. Despite this, the school building excels; “After earthquakes hit, we would have class in that tent. And finally a sturdy structure to withstand earthquakes was built and I am very happy,” said the headmaster. I attended both the boys’ school and girls’ school opening ceremonies and was greeted by many children. Although many children appeared shy and uncertain, I noticed a wave of excitement.

Visiting the girls’ school had the biggest impact me. In a predominantly Islamic area, coed education is unusual. Despite having heard of the bleak realities of Pakistani girls’ opportunity to receive an education, I was extremely happy that a large number of girls (more than I had expected) showed up to the opening ceremony. The teachers at the girls’ schools are all female. Although all of the girls are still young, each wore the veil well.

When I was having conversations with the children in the classrooms, one ten year old girl that seemed especially curious asked many questions: “Do Japanese schools look similar to this one? What do students study? About how many students are there?” Even from a school in the depths of a mountain I was able to notice many young children “growing like a sprout.” In addition, although it may be customary in this area, they prepared sweet milk tea, pound cake, cookies, and vegetable fritters.

In this building, this “place for learning,” where many children are able to attend and travel to in less than an hour, I have confidence the children’s dreams and futures will continue to develop and I hope to visit again someday.

pakistan photo

* This school construction project in Pakistan is made possible by the contributions of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects” and individual supporters in Japan.

Reported by Saeko Terada (KnK President)
Nonprofit Organization Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi (KnK)
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