Dozens of students have been taking classes outside their schools, while hundreds of others are staying home, since the building was locked by its landowner on Wednesday.
The owner, Nobatullah Shah, claimed to have donated the land for Government High School Khabal Bala, Chattarplain, on a verbal condition that his son would be appointed as watchman in the institute. He reacted and locked the school when this promise was not fulfilled, sources in the education department told The Express Tribune. They added that one of his sons threatened to blow up the school if the administration tried to unlock the building.
The officials said that the school was constructed on the land about two decades back; however, it was destroyed during the 2005 earthquake. The building and later reconstructed by Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority and handed over to the education department in 2011.
The officials said that the education department had appointed two of his two sons, Wajid Shah and Zarghun Shah as watchmen in the school. The landowner again applied for the appointment of his third son as watchman recently. However, officials said that the appointment could not be made due to certain procedural delays, which infuriated Shah.
On June 28, his sons locked the school building forcing the teachers and over 300 students to either return or take classes outside the closed building. “Unless my brother is hired as a watchman in the school, the doors would remain closed,” Wajid told students and teachers outside the building. He added that his family merited appointment since they had donated the land. He also reportedly threatened to demolish the school building if the education department ever tried to forcibly unlock it.
When contacted, the school principal, Jahangir Shah, confirmed that two of Nobatullah’s sons have already been serving as watchmen in the school, but the landowner was still adamant on the appointment of his third son, which is “unjustifiable”. He further said that Nobatullah locked the school on June 28 and informed his seniors, Executive District Officer (EDO) Education and District Officer Education, two days later.
He said that the school remained closed for summer vacations from July 1 to July 31 but when the academic session resumed on August 1, he again contacted the landowner who turned down his request, saying that the school building will remain closed till the appointment of his son. The principal said that more than half of the students have stopped attending classes due to the prevailing situation while the rest are forced to attend classes on the side of a drain in front of the school building.
On the other hand, Nobatullah claimed that only one of his sons, Wajd, was appointed as a watchman while the administration had appointed some other person from another village against his second son. Contrary to the education department’s statement, he said he has only two sons.
Amarat Shah, another villager who also claimed to be the shareholder of the same land, condemned the closure of the school. He accused Nobatullah of getting his two sons appointed in connivance of the education department officials, although, being the partial owner of the land, he enjoys the same rights he him.
Meanwhile, EDO Education Mansehra Umar Khan Kundi was not available for comments while another official of the education department expressed ignorance over the matter. He said that nobody could lock the school building and deprive students of their right to education. He said those who locked the school will be taken to task under the government-employees rules.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.