PESHAWAR: In the heart of the provincial capital, residents need only take a look out of their window to see whether their children are studying or not, whether the teacher showed up. The school is so overcrowded that its administration has resorted to holding some classes on the roof, in full view of the surrounding locality.
Despite tall claims of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government that they have made record allocation for provision of basic facilities in schools, over 800 students of the primary section at the Government Middle School (GMS) Nauthia Jadeed in Peshawar study under the open-sky.
According to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education Department, they have spent Rs29.11 billion under the better schools programme to provide basic facilities to 24,336 of 27,524 schools across the province. These include the provision of facilities such as electricity, toilets, water, installation of solar panels and the construction of additional classrooms along with boundary walls and play areas.
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A pre-partition school, GMS Nauthia Jadeed had been established as a primary school in 1945. It had been upgraded to a middle school in 1985. In February 2016, the government decided to upgrade its status to that of a high school, but it failed to increase the number of classrooms for it.
As a result, the school now has just 12 classrooms for three sections including primary, middle and high all in one, 70-year-old building.
The school’s administration has decided to allocate the classrooms for students of middle and high sections while students of the primary section have been moved to the roof.
Niaz Ali, the headmaster of the primary section told The Express Tribune that despite being upgraded, the high school’s actual location was on Charkhano Road in Jehangirabad.
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He added that the government had constructed a building for the high school on the designated location around a decade ago, but due to certain reasons, they had been unable to shift the high school section so far.
Ali complained that GMS Nauthia Jadeed had been built to serve children at the primary level, but was currently forced to accommodate students from the middle and high sections as well.
Confirming that some of the primary students are studying on the roof, Ali said that the schools currently has 1,000 children on its books in the primary section while as many as 250 students are enrolled in the middle school and over 200 are enrolled in the high school section.
“Five classes of the primary section are conducted under the open sky on the roof of the building without any furniture, electricity, water or other basics facilities,” the headmaster stated.
Ali lamented that Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Law Arif Yousaf, elected from PK-04 Peshawar IV, had twice visited the area and had even visited the school, witnessing the abject condition of its building and overcrowded rooms.
Despite promises to address the problems, Ali said that help had yet to arrive.
The school had also tried to directly approach the government to resolve its issue. Ali said that the school’s administration had written to the concerned district education officer several times to solve their predicament but have yet to see any action.
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When contacted, Yousaf — elected on a PTI ticket — said that he had repeatedly asked teachers at the school to provide him with details of all the problems they faced and the list of basic items they required at the school, however, he has yet to receive any documentation from the school.
“I personally visited the schools,” the MPA confirmed to The Express Tribune, adding, “[I am] aware about the issue and very soon we will search for a solution for this overburden school.”
Sajjad Ahmad, a local education activist, believes that children cannot learn properly in crowded classrooms.
Having separate classrooms for different grades while maintaining an optimal student-teacher ratio along with suitable environment can significantly increase the interest of students in education and hence improve their rate of learning.
He further lamented that most schools in Peshawar are overcrowded even though, if provided sufficient classrooms, can meet the international standard of teacher-student ratio.
Peshawar is currently ranked at 75 in the district education rankings by the education campaign Alif Ailaan (2016 report).
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2018.