MUZAFFARGARH: Schools in the flood zones may not be resuming classes anytime soon given that many school buildings are being used to provide shelter for flood victims in southern Punjab.
However, senior school administrative officials have stated that the school education department has issued strict directives for classes to start from September 14 at all costs.
School and Education department secretary Muhammad Aslam Kamboh told The Express Tribune that he recently visited the flood hit areas of South Punjab and found that flood victims had already vacated most school buildings and the Education Department had already called teachers in from September 6. “Most of the schools that were providing shelter to flood victims have been vacated now that the flood victims have begun returning home,” he said.
Aslam said that a total of 2,085 schools were affected in south Punjab due to the floods, adding that the Education Department had issued directions to all schools administrators to use their school council funds for the renovation of the schools. “Several schools were damaged in the floods and council funds should be dedicated solely to repairs,” he said. Muhammad Aslam said that the department had written to the Punjab government requesting Rs400,000 per damaged school.
Meanwhile, two district officers for education in flood hit districts said that in five districts people were still living in the school buildings. Requesting anonymity, they said that there were several reports of teachers and school guards forcing the flood victims to leave the school premises so they could resume classes.
They said that some headmasters of primary, middle and high schools were forcing out flood victims in Muzaffargarh and Rajanpur. “These are some of the worst-affected areas and it is taking people time to return home. Even though many have left there are still hundreds of people stranded inside the school buildings that are now being turned out,” they said. The district officers said that school officials had mentioned that they were only doing their duty and had received orders to resume classes from September 14.
A principal at a high school in the Rajanpur district said that the district coordination officer (DCO) had directed them to politely ask flood victims to evacuate the school buildings. “I was really worried about how I would accommodate students by September 14 because the entire building has been housing flood victims but I received orders to ask them to leave,” he said. The principal who wished to remain anonymous said that headmasters and headmistress of schools needed to consider the future of students. “If we do not resume classes in time then students will not complete their syllabus in time,” he said, adding “given the situation we also want to do all we can to help the flood victims but that could take months.”
DCO Rajanpur Cap (r) Muhammad Usman said that flood victims had already left the buildings of most urban schools and all the schools in rural areas. Usman confirmed that there were cases of forced evacuation of flood victims in some areas but added that he had directed concerned officers to ‘ask the flood victims to leave politely’.
“The flood victims were asked if waters had receded in their areas and were then asked to go back to their homes. We have offered them 15 days rations and tents but we cannot delay the school dates,” Usman said.
Muhammad Aslam Kamboh said that flood victims from the schools located in the Mianwali and Layyah district had already vacated the buildings. He said that he would ensure that all the schools in Punjab have resumed their activities form September 14.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2010.