Adjacent to the Ranchore Lines Bazaar and hidden away in the heart of Marwari Lines is a school – the M H Gazdar Government Secondary School.
It’s been there for more than 60 years and looks like it is falling apart.
After the Partition of the Sub-continent in 1947, the Muslim Marwari Silwata Community migrated to Karachi to find work as masons and stonecutters and became known as the Silawata (‘sil’ meaning stone) Community. They settled in Marwari Lines and built the school for their children. Established in 1949, the school was named after Muhammad Hashim Gazdar, who was the mayor of Karachi from 1941 to 1942. Over the years it grew from a primary school for boys to a co-education secondary school.
Today, the building stands in shambles because of a partial demolition, and dispute between the Muslim Marwari Silawata community and government officials.
Sindh Education Department officials told The Express Tribune that the members of the Marwari Silwata Community wanted to knock down the building and keep the plot. “When the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) gave them permission to tear down one part of the building, the community members decided to demolish the entire building,” said the director of school in Karachi, Niaz Ahmed Laghari. “The community should fix the school as soon as possible because the students are suffering.”
The community, however, disagrees. They claimed that the plot in question was already their property. “By 1958 the school building was three-storey high,” said the community president Muhammad Zubair Chandio. “In 1972 when former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced the nationalisation policy, the school fell into the government’s hands.” He added that the government had not paid a penny in terms of rent or spent money on repair and maintenance.
While talking to The Express Tribune at the community’s office in Asa Jalal Complex, Chandio said that the school’s utility bills were also paid by the community. Chandio explained that they wanted to construct a community hall, health club and library on the plot.
On January 30, the SBCA sent the community’s general secretary a demolition notification. According to the secretary of SBCA’s dangerous buildings committee, Aqeel Ahmed Abedi, they gave the school a 48-hour notice and asked them to ensure that the bathrooms on the ground and first floor were empty. “I went to inspect the school myself,” he said. “A portion of the bathrooms was dilapidated. It was also declared dangerous in 1997. There were no other visible defects or cracks in the rest of the building.” He added that when the Sindh Education Department heard what was going on, they contacted the Saddar Town administration and the police to take action.
However, Jokhio told The Express Tribune that in a letter to the EDO education on October 11, 2011, it was stated that the whole building – walls, ceilings and washrooms needed to be repaired. He sent a proposal to renovate the building but said that there was no need to vacate the building.
With a letter from the Karachi Building Control Authority issued by the assistant commission of Garden in 1997, Chandio, said that the building had become a threat to the students and buildings nearby.
Currently, 371 students are enrolled at the school. The headmistress remembers a time there used to be more than 700 students but because of the conditions of the building, most of students had transferred to the Asa Jalal Primary and Secondary School.
Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq said that he had asked the director of schools to look into the matter and send him a report.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2012.