In Sindh, students tread a treacherous path to school

In Badin village, funeral processions wade through canal to reach graveyard

Sameer Mandhro December 08, 2019
Students from Sono Khan Sial risk their lives on this bridge twice a day for a chance at a better education. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Acquiring quality education is no easy feat in Sindh. In one village near Badin, students risk their lives twice a day to get a better education.

Every morning and every afternoon, around 50 students in Sono Khan Siyal make their way across a canal on a rickety 'bridge' made of branches, clinging to a rope to avoid falling in. Some parents, worried about the safety of their children, wade across the 60-feet-wide canal carrying their children on their shoulders.

"The school across the canal provides better education," explained Muhammad Qasim Mallah, one of the fathers. "They have computer classes and their teachers show up regularly. Our children want a higher quality of education, you see."

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This is not to say there isn't a school closer at hand. According to Mallah, there is a government school within the village too, with no need to cross the canal. The problem with this school, though, is that it has barely been functional for the last seven years - there is only one teacher, and even that teacher doesn't turn up very often.

The village graveyard also lies across the canal. Funeral processions have to make their way through chest-high water carrying bodies on their shoulders. "Imagine our struggle when the water is freezing in winter or when there is heavy rain," lamented Mallah.

The story of the treacherous crossing circulated on social media earlier this week when the funeral procession of a prominent wrestler from Badin district, Soomar Mallah, was taken to the graveyard in the same way.

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Taking notice of it, army personnel visited the village on Saturday. Surveying the canal, they told the villagers that a bridge built there would be 65 feet long and 18 feet wide. Mallah said the people were reassured by the visit and hoped practical steps would be taken to relieve them of their misery.

Political victimization?

The people of Sono Khan Siyal say they have been loyal voters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) since its inception. "We are confused voters now," a villager told The Express Tribune, adding that they were considered to be opponents of Grand Democratic Alliance leaders Zulfiqar Mirza and Fehmida Mirza.

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"Yes, this village is in my constituency," confirmed MPA Hasnain Mirza, the son of Zulfiqar and Fehmida. "There are several such villages without bridges, but I have not been given even a single rupee by the Sindh government in the last seven years. Do you think I will spend money from my own pocket?"

Hasnain said that a proposal had been drafted to build a bridge in the village in 2010, but the development budget was reallocated to rescue and rehabilitation efforts in the floods of 2011.

The MPA blamed the provincial government for not releasing funds for his constituency, saying that he had highlighted a number of issues in the Sindh Assembly in vain. He claimed that this was a form of political victimization, "because the people of Badin supported us [the Mirzas]."

Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2019.


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