In Kohistan’s isolated village, rekindling the hope of education

Govt primary school rebuilt in Jarail village by efforts of one man which snowballed into a community project.

Waqas Naeem December 31, 2012


The only government primary school of Jarail village in Kohistan’s Kuz Palas union council was one of the nearly 10,000 schools damaged by the 2010 floods.

Situated in Kohistan, one of the poorest and most isolated districts of the country, chances of the school getting rebuilt were slim. Kohistan’s adult literacy rate being declared the lowest among all districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) by the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey 2010-11 did not help its odds.

But in November 2012, the school was reopened to the village’s boys and girls – not because of the government’s benignity but because of the efforts of one man which snowballed into a community project.

Klaus Euler, a German national working as a freelance consultant at the time, visited the destroyed school building in March 2011 and decided that something must be done about it.

Knowing that the government was far behind a number of reconstructions even after the 2005 Earthquake, particularly in such remote villages, Euler said he took the idea up to reconstruct the school with the help of his former Kohistani colleagues of the Palas Conservation and Development Project (PCDP).

Among them were Mustan Khan, Muhammad Nawaz and Dr Muhammad Hanif, who worked with Euler on emergency relief operations of the PDCP during the 2005 and 2010 earthquakes, wherein they orchestrated more than 100 helicopter flights delivering food and shelter to different areas of Palas valley.

Klaus Euler

But despite the backup, the issue of funding for the school’s reconstruction remained.

Fortunately, the Rotary Germany Community Service (RDG) agreed to provide 54,000 Euros for reconstruction of the school building and its retention wall. The funds were channelled through the Rotary Club Islamabad Cosmopolitan and the project was implemented through a memorandum of understanding with the PCDP.

Though the construction was delayed due to unprecedented snowfall and repeated landslides hindering the transportation of construction material to the site, the school’s earthquake-resistant building now stands at an elevated piece of land, protected from future flooding of the Musha’ga River. The land was generously donated by a local named Sherin. The school is also equipped with furniture, which is a rare feature in schools in remote villages of Kohistan.

Klaus Euler poses with students at the new school building in Jarail village. PHOTO: EXPRESS

“We were lucky that the contractor is from this union council and has his own kids in this school, so good quality of the construction was guaranteed,” Euler said.

On November 16, Euler and his PCDP colleagues officially handed over the school to the district government representatives in a modest ceremony attended by the students, their parents and the two teachers of the school.

During the ceremony, Sher Zada, the assistant district officer of Planning and Development, said the district government is committed to improving education but lacks the required funds. He asked Euler and the PCDP to build one such model school in each of the 12 union councils of Palas Tehsil.

PCDP is now looking to establish links to the school with other schools in Islamabad in order to conduct trainings for Jarail teachers. Euler is in contact with his own primary school in Germany to establish a longer-term partnership with the primary school in Jarail.

The school could have another use as well during off hours and the long winter break from December to March, said Euler. Kuz Paro lies at the entrance of the main conservation area and the school in Jarail could be an information centre for the community and eco-tourists trekking up, he said.

Palas Valley is considered a globally-important biodiversity conservation hotspot, because of over 140 bird species (amongst them the rare Western Tragopan pheasant, one of the six pheasant species in Pakistan), over 400 plant species and several threatened mammal species.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2013.


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