A symbiotic relationship: A school by day, a drug den by night

Published: December 3, 2014
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The Government Boys Primary School in Mawach Goth has been neglected by the authorities over the last decade. Currently, around 214 students are enrolled but hardly 25 to 30 show up every day. Parents are wary of sending their children to the school where drug addicts and criminals sleep at night. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

The Government Boys Primary School in Mawach Goth has been neglected by the authorities over the last decade. Currently, around 214 students are enrolled but hardly 25 to 30 show up every day. Parents are wary of sending their children to the school where drug addicts and criminals sleep at night. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: 

Schools are a place where young minds are nurtured into becoming thinkers, scientists and professionals. The Government Boys Primary School in Mawach Goth does not fit this description. Forget the decrepit building, lack of facilities, irregular attendance and indifferent attitude of the teachers, this facility has become the abode of criminals and drug addicts.

The school was built in 1996 by former MPA Lal Baksh Bhutto. The students largely comprised children from Qasim Ali Shah Colony, located nearby. The day the school officially opened its doors was a dream come true for the residents of this colony. At its onset, the school imparted education to around 500 students.

But over the years, the school has struggled to survive, with teachers and the government losing interest and the number of students falling steadily. The final blow came with the death of its supervisor, Khalid Baluch. The number of students continued to decline until there were only a handful of students left. Teachers and peons got themselves transferred to other institutions to save their jobs. Post 2004, the school building had a permanent lock on its front door and became known as a ‘bhoot bangla’ (ghost house).

Enter the dreamers

The Dream Foundation Trust (DFT) took up the initiative to revamp the school and made it functional again. The institute was reopened on April 8, 2013, after a long struggle by the trust’s volunteers. A government school teacher, Naseer Ahmed Baluch, was given charge over the school’s affairs.

The Government Boys Primary School in Mawach Goth has been neglected by the authorities over the last decade. Currently, around 214 students are enrolled but hardly 25 to 30 show up every day. Parents are wary of sending their children to the school where drug addicts and criminals sleep at night. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Hence began a three-day admissions campaign where the volunteers struggled to get students. They managed to enrol around 214 students. Sadly, the damage was already done and today, only around 25 to 30 students show up on any given day.

The premises have been vacant for so long that it has now become a cosy hideaway for drug addicts and criminals. There is no security and the non-existent boundary walls make it easy for the criminals to creep in to spend the night. Even the main gate has been stolen by some scavenger and sold off perhaps for a good hit of the narcotics. These criminals are, however, more considerate than the authorities who claim to be the students’ benefactors. “They sleep in the school premises during the night but make sure to leave before the students arrive in the morning so as not to disturb academic activities,” said Baluch. During the day, the drug addicts go over the hill behind the school where they scavenge for food and other items, making sure never to come close to the premises during school hours.

Their presence is, however, one of the main reasons why parents don’t want to send their children to the school. “What parent would want to send their child to a school where criminals and drug addicts have made their abode?” questioned Baluch.

But there is hope. The students that do attend regularly say this is their chance for a better future. Ten-year-old Ali Raza, who was colouring in his drawing book, said the teachers provide them with all the necessities. “Our teacher gives us copies, books and colour pencils,” he said, proudly displaying his colour box. Books and stationery provided to the students are bought by the funds donated by Unicef, USAID and various NGOs.

These students have a lot of aspirations. Some dream of becoming doctors and pilots while others want to teach like their role models at the school. They have a lot of potential too, says Waqar Ahmed, another teacher who was posted here last July. If only luck gave them a chance; or the government that has promised them free and quality education but failed miserably so far.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2014.

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