PESHAWAR: Interfaith harmony, a focus on girls education and a movement for peace. With such buzzwords ringing in the air, the idea behind The Peshawar School for Peace (TPSP) is sure to evoke excitement or trepidation or perhaps a bit of both.
A joint venture of the Young Pakistan Association of Australia, Pakistani Consul-General in Sydney and Raising Hope Education Foundation, partnering with Peshawar Youth Organization, TPSP will solve educational issues faced by the province, said Francis Ventura, the project coordinator, on Friday at the Peshawar Press Club.
The school will provide education up till grade 5 and will be situated in Gulbahar. The property which will be rented will first be renovated, for which another event will be held on Saturday (today).
According to Ventura, the project will provide quality education to socially and economically disadvantaged families of all religious groups. It will also look to strengthen ties between Australian and Pakistani youth, added the coordinator.
“Our aim is to foster a future of peace for Pakistan through education that encourages interfaith harmony and empowers girls,” reads the school’s website. The founders of the project chose Peshawar as its ground zero as it’s the capital of a province which not only faces low literacy but also suffers from a lack of basic infrastructure and conflict.
“Retaining knowledge of local history, culture and customs is a key way of achieving peace and social cohesion,” said Ventura.
Children at the school will be charged Rs600 per month; the plan is to encourage Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and others to be part of the school, said Daniyal Riaz, founding member. The school will also focus on bridging financial and class barriers. Riaz told The Express Tribune, if the city responds well to the project, it will be extended to other parts of the province.
“We have designed our own curriculum. It will be at par with the high school network of the country,” said Riaz. The team has studied all available curricula in the country but while some were too expensive, the rest were just not up to the standard they are aiming for.
The curriculum of TPSP will contain “forging life-long learning competencies, social attitudes and skills” and will be continuously examined to keep enhancing it, he shared.
“We will be incorporating cultural heritage education within our classes as a means of both fostering peace and enhancing appreciation for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” added Riaz.
A study board has also been formed, comprising teachers from Edwardes College and Fazaia Degree College. They will help design the curriculum and help with capacity building for teachers.
TPSP and Unesco Pakistan will work closely to help with the teacher resource kit and better run the institute.
Money for peace
However, this lofty goal does not come without a price tag – an annual AUD50,000 tag at that. That’s Rs4.61 million
Although TPSP has been using the crowd-funding site chuffed.org, the money counter shows, it has only raised AUD2,452 through this method (as checked on September 19) or Rs226,183. And crowd-funding will come to an end on October 21.
According to project page on chuffed.org, the biggest chunk of this money is allotted for “staff stipends” which includes “a principal, five teachers, security, maintenance and administration.”
The rest of the amount will be furnished through various other organisations, including Unicef and Right to Play.
“People have contributed enthusiastically [through crowd-funding],” said Riaz. Over the next couple of years, the founders plan to purchase or construct their own purpose-built building.
“So far we have not faced any challenges and everything is going very smoothly; people from all walks of life are helping us,” shared the founding member. “After necessary renovations, we hope to start classes in December.”
At present, TPSP plans to accommodate up to 150 students, “More help will be needed to accommodate more students,” said Riaz.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2014.