Located in the Swat valley, Shangla was devastated by the 2005 earthquake which claimed 434 lives, and left 1,182 injured, apart from widespread destruction of the infrastructure.
Carved out of district Swat in 1995, Shangla is home to several Buddhist hermits, as well as a small but thriving Hindu community in the Chakesar region. It is said to have been visited by Alexander the Great’s army in 326 BCE, which fought a battle with the locals at mount Pirsar.
Orphaned by the quake
She saved me, but could not save my father.
I was playing in the veranda of our house when I felt movement under me. Soon everything started shaking and my mother, frantically, picked me up and rushed outside. My father was ill and lying in a room. Before he could move out, the roof of our house fell upon him. I still remember my mother’s scream when the roof fell down. She dropped me and ran back to the debris and tried to unearth my father’s body … but it was all in vain. She then called for help but nobody came. All around, there was screaming, crying and a huge cloud of dust. Our village was no more.
Back then, I did not understand the chaos but with every passing day, it gets more vivid. My mother’s frantic effort, to save me and to rescue my father, always haunts me. She saved me but could not save my father.
Deedar Hussain, 12, a resident of Shah Pur village of District Shangla.
Would not dare enter the house…
I was out shepherding my goats in the field when I noticed the trees around swaying. Soon after, I heard a roar of rocks sliding down the hills. The animals were scared and created a racket. People ran out of their houses, reciting loudly verses of the Holy Quran. In a while, half of our village was destroyed.
The tremors continued the whole day, so we spent the entire day outdoors. It wasn’t just us children – the elders were weeping and praying too. Out of fear, we did not dare enter our houses even to fetch food, and spent the night outside, sleepless and hungry.
Umar Ali, 14, resident of Chakeysar area of district Shangla.
Ali and Hussain, along with 48 other orphaned children, were brought to Khpal Kor Foundation, an orphanage at Mingora, where they have been receiving education with free boarding and lodging facilities. The2005 earthquake left thousands of children orphaned, a majority of whom migrated to other parts of the country. Some of them were caught in child labour while some were adopted by different orphanages.
Schools, not phoenix
When, our school was destroyed in the earthquake, I was in fifth grade. I stood first in class and was fond of education, but our school has yet to be reconstructed. If, our school was constructed in time, today, I would be taking my intermediate examinations. But I had to abandon my education.
Zafar Ali, 16, washes dishes at a hotel in Besham, district Shangla.
ERRA is solely responsible for the loss of education in district Shangla … it has played the same role as that of Taliban in Swat.
Khalid Khan, a local journalist.
When the fateful earthquake struck, a total of 204 schools were completely destroyed in Shangla, while another 319 were partially damaged, affecting more than 13,000 students in the district.
The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) and the ministry of education, Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa chalked out a plan to reconstruct the destroyed schools within three years, complete with science, computer labs, libraries and sports facilities. Partially damaged schools were scheduled to be reconstructed in six to 12 months.
Six years later, however, only 20 schools have been reconstructed, local sources say. Construction is underway in some others while tenders have yet to be awarded for most, they add.
Funds for the schools have been transferred to Benazir Income Support Programme and floods rehabilitation, locals complain.
Meanwhile, 60% of the affected students have abandoned education while the remaining switched to private schools.
Latifur Rehaman, an official in the District Reconstruction Unit (DRU), when contacted, said 50 to 60 schools have already been reconstructed and are functional while work is underway on the remaining. They will be completed in another two years, he said, citing the paucity of funds as the reason for delay.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2011.