BY SHABBIR MIR
‘To be in the mountains’ is often used as a euphemism to join the Baloch separatist movement or the insurgency in Fata. But far from embracing the sword, the people of the Sadpara area of Baltistan are learning the power of the pen, thanks to a non-governmental organisation Inspire Initiative, which celebrated its first year anniversary on June 13.
The Inspire journey started back in 2007 when British-Pakistani Bushra Farooqui visited Baltistan for the first time with a group of trekkers from the UK for a charity trek to K-2 Base Camp. “From then on, I continued to visit for various trekking expeditions, but it wasn’t until 2010 that we decided to give back to the hospitable community by supporting girls education in Basha Valley, a very remote part of the region.” In 2011, 60 girls were given primary education at the only boys school in the area. The initiative was funded by Bushra Farooqui and two other expats from the UK. The number of students soon grew to 360 girls within a span of three years.
The initiative was first aimed at only girls because parents who could not afford to send all their children to school sent boys as a priority. “We started using the boys school premises and introduced an afternoon shift for girls, bringing in female teachers, books, uniforms and other school supplies. This grew each year as we supported more girls deprived of education,” shares Farooqui. Later, however, boys were also included in the initiative.
“The motivation behind running a primary school in this beautiful mountainous region is the collective love of mountains, trekking and education,” says Farooqui, who relocated to Dubai recently to keep a close eye on the running of the school. As a result of the initiative’s mounting success, it was given a formal structure and registered as a charitable organisation in 2014 to support primary education in Sadpara.
Currently, 180 children, both girls and boys between the ages of four and 14 years, are enrolled at the two schools adopted by Inspire. The children are taught English, Urdu, mathematics, general knowledge, social studies, Islamiat and science. The ratio of female to male students is 50:50 and with these two schools, Inspire is catering to at least 70% of Sadpara valley’s primary school-going children, adds Farooqui.
Inspire covers all the costs, including salaries and training of teachers, school supplies, furniture, stationery, uniforms, bags and books. All the volunteers are Skardu-based and tend to the day-to-day operations of the school by liaising with the teachers and village education committee (VEC).
According to Farooqui, Inspire Initiative plans to create a cluster of three schools per valley and will hopefully take over the running of another school by next year. “We have also shortlisted other remote valleys in Baltistan where we can easily expand in the next five to eight years. We aspire to give these children a taste of childhood while they are with us,” she says.
“We have a strategic partnership with Aga Khan Education Services Pakistan whereby they provide technical support, help with training teachers, curriculum development and quality assessment,” says Farooqui. Thus far, the initiative has been successful on many levels. Along with providing quality education to children in a fun and creative school environment, Farooqui says the school has created an air of excitement in the valley.
“Parents and community elders are often invited to attend events and meetings at the school so they too feel that they’re a part of it,” she says. But a lot still needs to be done to spread education in the remote regions of Pakistan and Inspire Initiative sends the message that this is not impossible. -- The Express Tribune.
BY UMER HUSSAIN
After the Dakar World Education Forum held in April 2000, “Education for All” has become the slogan for the education sector worldwide.
Pakistan is the signatory of the international accord, universal primary education under the Education for All 2015 Frameworks.
In this respect Pakistan has to achieve 100 percent primary school enrollment target till 2015 which seems impossible. Among developing and South Asian countries, Pakistan still remains a country with a momentous number of out of school children, The Nation reported.
UNICEF reports more than half of the primary school going age children (5-9) remain out of school. Most amazingly, seven million out of 13 million out of school children are girls. The education system of Pakistan is riddled with many problems but the most pressing problem is high dropout rate of girls at primary level. One of the most significant features of Pakistan education system after the historical 18th amendment is the decentralization of its educational system.
This policy is in response to the cultural diversity of the nation and there is need to satisfy internal public pressures for self-determination. In August 2009, the government granted self-rule to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and created a legislative assembly. The legislative assembly chaired by the federal minister for Kashmir affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan has limited powers.
The last government of Pakistan People’s Party in Gilgit-Baltistan under the leadership of Mehdi Shah has failed miserably in protecting the rights of females. This could be seen from the rise of reported suicide attempts of females in different regions of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Despite lack of government support and all the hurdles girls like Samina and Diana Baig have been able to shine worldwide for Pakistan belonging to the most remote areas of the region.
The Dakar framework also emphasizes on vulnerable children to make them part of the school system globally. In Gilgit-Baltistan patriarchal thinking has made females in rural areas of the region a marginalized and vulnerable group and due to sectarian violence and negligence of the government, Gilgit-Baltistan school going girls are facing many dangerous challenges as compared to schoolgirls in other parts of Pakistan.
The history of female education in Gilgit-Baltistan is disheartening. Due to remoteness of the region from the rest of the country, there has been less awareness among the people about female education. According to the 1998 census; the literacy rate was reported to be 37.8 per cent (male 52.6 per cent and female 21.6 per cent) in Gilgit-Baltistan area. Female literacy rate in certain areas such as Baltistan was reported to be as low as 13 percent.
The Nation reported that the enrolment patterns in Gilgit-Baltistan are characterized by high dropout rate which was 8% in 2011, according to the department of education Gilgit-Baltistan. The disadvantages that females in Gilgit-Baltistan experience in education and literacy are symptomatic of many other aspects of their lives as well. According to World Bank, GB Economic Report, 2010, cultural and social barriers also limit the mobility of students, particularly girls, even when schools are available. Cultural norms also engender a bias against investing in girls’ education in GB.
The issue is particularly acute in the district of Diamer and to some extent in pockets of Skardu, which are by no means are less connected than Ghizer and Ghanche, but perform poorly on girls’ education due to a more pronounced gender bias. Although approximately, 520 schools are co-educational, even where schools are nominally co-educational, enrolments are invariably heavily skewed towards boys. Indeed, more than 100 co-educational schools in Astore and Diamer have no girls enrolled at all.
As, the elections about to approach in the region political parties remain silent on this issue and are trying to get vote again on the basis of sectarian division. The next government of Gilgit-Baltistan has to take bold steps for the education of females or the paradise will remain hell for females of the region.
—The writer Umer Hussain is a social activist working for the rights of vulnerable children.
SKARDU: The people of Baltistan region have resented reported plans to shift the site of a USAID-funded school of education from Skardu to Gilgit.
Approved in 2012, the school was to be constructed by the Karakorum International University in its Skardu campus, as the USAID had given a donation of $25 million for the purpose to accommodate students under the HEC approved new teacher education degree programmes.
The project is part of USAID financed $300 million project to improve quality of teaching and learning in classrooms at 10 public sector universities throughout the country.
The building of the school of education was to comprise 10 classrooms, a multipurpose hall/auditorium with storage space, science laboratories, a library, a resource centre, a conference room, dean and faculty offices, kitchens, utility rooms and toilets.
Keeping in view the existing insufficient building of KIU Skardu campus to meet requirements for higher education, the KIU Senate in December 2012 had approved the project.
The people of Baltistan were happy that the school would ensure a bright future for their children, but their hopes were dashed when they learnt that some elements in the KIU were opposing it.
It has been learnt that during the tenure of former KIU vice chancellor Dr Najma Najam, some elements tried to shift the school project to Gilgit and also selected a piece of land there.
These elements also made the USAID officials visit the selected site in Gilgit city, but the latter rejected the location.
Talking to Dawn senior PML-N leader Haji Fida Mohammad Nashad said a particular lobby in the KIU was creating hurdles in the construction of school.
He said there was no issue of land in Skardu and the region deserved to have the educational institution as it lagged behind in education. Saying that Gilgit division was already enjoying teachers training facilities, Mr Nashad demanded of the KIU vice chancellor Professor Mohammad Asif to order construction of school in Skardu without delay.
Agha Raza, president of the Students Organising Committee of KIU Skardu campus, as the campus building was insufficient to accommodate increasing number of students, the school of education should be set up there. He said that the campus neither had a library nor a computer lab.
Mr Raza said that alleged shifting of the project from Skardu to Gilgit by the KIU administration was a conspiracy to deprive the students of Baltistan of quality education facilities.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2015
BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
GILGIT: While most of the private and public organizations remained inactive in Gilgit – Baltistan, students of Mashal Public School marked the Earth Day in style.
They paraded down the road near the IGP House Gilgit, holding colorful placards and banners with slogan written on it.
The awareness walk was held on Earth Day – 22 April.
Students from Class Nursery to Five took part in the Awareness Walk from the school to the Fateh Bagh, said principal Dr. Humaira who also herself supervised the Walk.
The children carried banners and placards stressing the need to save planet Earth from environmental degradation and new challenges arising from climate change, she told Outpost.
The students chanted slogans like “Save our Earth” and “Long Live our Mother Earth” as they passed through offices and gatherings on the way. The walk ended with speeches by students on environmental problems and ways to solve them.
Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.
Published in Outpost on April 24, 2015
BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
GILGIT: A student from Gilgit – Baltistan has been named to president’s honour list in American Otero Junior College for his outstanding performance.
Mir Wasim Iqbal got the distinction in fall semester 2014, having 4 CGPA [Cumulative Grade Point Average].
“You can take pride in your accomplishments in that only two percent of college students in America have achieved this status,” president Otero Junior College, James T Rizzuto, wrote in his letter to Iqbal who is a resident of Gilgit and son of Khalid Iqbal, former Assistant vice president Habib Bank.
Iqbal did his fourth semester [August to December] with the Otero Junior College after he was selected for a Scholarship underUnited States Education Foundation (USEF).
"I am thankful to God for the success," he told Outpost.
Iqbal is doing BS Accounting & Finance from University of Management and Technology, Lahore where he maintained 3.86 CGPA becoming role model for others.