It was a glorious moment for Hassan Khan, who has a hearing and speech impairment, when he was promoted to grade seven at his school for children who are differently-abled in Lower Dir. However, the 12-year-old’s joy was short-lived as there was no classroom in the school for grade school students.
This Facebook post (reproduced ad verbatim below) underlines his state of utter despair.
“My name is Hassan Khan; I’m a deaf & dumb child. I was student of Government School for deaf and dumb Children in Timargara, Lower Dir, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. I passed the 6th class examination held during March 2015 and got promoted to Class-VII.
I and 14 other students have not been given admission because of lack of staff and facilities in my school. My question from the Government and public is: Is Education not my right?”
Hassan, his brother and sister were denied admission by the school principal as there were no classes beyond grade six in the school [as they had been cancelled]. It has been more than three months now and Hassan is still out of school. He met political leaders, organised campaigns and demos, but did not get the attention of the rulers. “Just because I’m deaf and dumb and have no voice to cry, the rulers will simply not pay attention,” said Hassan in various posts.
Rights of admission reserved
Besides this post dated July 3, 2015, Hassan also shared pictures of his elder sister Summaya, 13, younger brother Faisal, 10, and himself. All three hold placards, demanding their right to an education—something the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has laid much emphasis on since it took power.
Hassan Khan and his siblings all have speech and hearing impairments. However, none of this dissuaded their father Ameerzada Gul from fighting for his children’s right to an education. Ever since the students were turned away from the school, he has knocked on every door possible. “We have visited senior government officials so they can provide an education to these children,” he told The Express Tribune over the telephone. At the time of these meetings, the father was given plenty of assurances, yet his children remain out of school; their thirst for an education only increasing by the day.
Gul recalled the Government Deaf and Dumb Primary School was once located in an open area which had two extra rooms for class seven and eight students, but now the building has been shifted to a far more congested premises.
Lack of space has resulted in the cancellation of classes and 14 children, all yearning for an education, are out of school. In addition, poor infrastructure means students faced various hardships. Gul said there were around 300 pupils from Timergara, Monjae, Talash and Madan who are enrolled in the school, but the lack of transport makes the commute from home to school and back an arduous journey.
Hassan’s father said the current rented building has fewer rooms and four teachers, while many students make do with the floor in the absence of furniture.
If a nearby mosque did not exist, drinking water would be an equally scarce commodity as seating space.
An elder of the area, Ismail Khan, pointed out the rented premises was on the third floor of a plaza, making it difficult for the children to reach class. He said the school had no permanent building and location changes were a nightmare for the students.
Ismail demanded a permanent campus for these children and the provision of basic facilities such as drinking water and toilets.
Talking to The Express Tribune, school principal Sultan Room admitted to the lack of facilities. About accommodating students of grades seven and eight, Room said the institute was in a primary school from grade one to five. “In the old campus, we had facilities and extra space so we started more classes. However, there are only three rooms in the new school and we cannot accommodate senior students.”
He said the administration even approached Minister for Finance Muzaffar Said who assured the matter would be resolved on a priority basis. “From my side, I am trying my best to facilitate more students as I am aware these children are vulnerable.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2015.