The thirst for education is something every child in Shinkat Village embodies. Yet, after studying in hiding throughout the militancy, these children, especially the girls, have hit an enforced dead end.
Located 30 kilometres from Mingora, Shinkat is a village of around 2,000 households. At an elevation of 1,500 metres above sea level, it is a place bestowed with scenic beauty and humble people who live a charmed life.
Both boys and girls have deep yearning for education, and both girls’ schools in the village were running smoothly before the rise of the Taliban. Peace and serenity were disrupted, as the Taliban first destroyed the girls’ middle school and then the primary school soon after.
“The blast was so loud that our ears were ringing for hours. It was around midnight and we rushed out of our houses. There was smoke everywhere, and the smoke and stench prevailed and pushed us back to our rooms,” said Uzma, presently in 7th grade.
“In the morning, we came to know that our school had been demolished. Nobody dared to come out of their houses. We were really sad about our school,” she added.
Though both the schools were destroyed, the girls did not lose heart and continued in their quest for education. “Initially we resumed our studies in a nearby house. Later, when tents were installed on our school property, we shifted there.” Said Mohsina, a 9th grader, adding, “But our area does not suit tents as we have rain and snow for a long time.”
As there is no high school in the area, Mohsina and her friends must live with relatives in Chargbagh, some 20 kilometres away from her house to get any further education. “Our girls left school after passing 8th grade because we don’t have a high school nearby. I am doing my SSC at Girls’ High School Charbagh. Travelling that far daily is very difficult so I live with my relatives there.” A majority of the girls here want further education but if they have no relatives in other towns, they are deprived of the opportunity.
The girls of Shinkat were very much happy to see their middle school reconstructed with every basic facility by the Department for International Development (DFID) in collaboration with Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP).
“Our happiness at seeing our school once again knows no bounds. This is a dream come true. We want to serve our area and this is only possible with an education.” Mohsina said, adding, “Apart from a high school, we direly need a Basic Health Unit (BHU), as we must take our patients to Mingora and very often the seriously ill pass away en route.”
DFID with UK aid in collaboration with SRSP is constructing 40 schools of pre-fabricated structure destroyed during the conflict with community participation, teachers professional development and psycho-social support activities at Swat.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2011.