SWAT: They sit on the ground, on the cold stones; there are no chairs and not a roof over their heads. The students in Qambar, an area in the outskirts of Mingora have to suffer the cold because the building of the Government High School Qambar was blown up by the Taliban militants in 2009. Now the teachers gather in a nearby market to continue their schooling.
“For the past three years we have been studying in this condition with fear of bombs and militants haunting our minds. We have no facilities, no science labs,” said Muhammad Bilal, a student of grade nine who used to study in Qambar High School. “It is hard to concentrate on our lessons in this discomfort.” he said.
Government High School, Qambar, has been destroyed twice by militants, first in 2008 and then in 2009. Located on the gateway to Mingora along the GT Road, the school’s debris reminds of the days when militants started destroying educational facilities in order to establish their rule the valley which cannot be imposed on an educated society.
“Whoever destroyed these alma maters, may God curse them with the same destruction,” said Fazal Muhammad, the school’s headmaster who has been teaching at the institution for the past 17 years. After bombing the school, he said the militants openly looted every usable item left in the building.
“I felt as if someone had destroyed my home,” he said tears welling up in his eyes. He recalled, the time when the militants first destroyed the school on December 12, 2008. We all wept when we saw the wreckage of our school left next morning. “The school was also our livelihood,” he added. The attendance had started decreasing even before the bombing because the new rulers had already shown they were averse to knowledge and hated books and learning. Now with enrolment of 700, the attendance has been reduced to 350 students.
“I salute the teachers and students of the school for their courage and determination in resuming their education despite such unfavourable conditions,” the teacher said.
Talking to the Express Tribune, Amjad Ali, a student of class eight said, “We are all fond of getting education but in this situation, it seems hard to get it in a proper way.” A lot of students of this school have abandoned schooling and are either learning crafts or wandering about. “I request all of them to stop strolling in the streets, come to the school and get education,” he pleaded.
The headmaster said that neither the government nor any NGO had helped the community to rebuild the school. He urged the international community to extend support in reconstructing the school.
However, the Assistant District Officer of Education, Fazal Ahad, said that the reconstruction of the school will be started soon with the support of a philanthropic organisation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, he said it will take at least a year to complete the reconstruction work.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2010.