(Updated: 23 October 06)
School: Diamond Jubilee (DJ) Community
Organization: Aga Khan Education Service
Community: Garelth Village (3kms North of Aliabad,
Date: 27th December 2005
teacher:Ali Ahmed Khan
Teachers: 2 regular, rest
supplied by community
No. of students: 95 (53 boys & 42
No. of Classes: Pre-nursery, Nursery, Prep, Class 1
Run by Aga Khan Education Service (AKES)
A school with an opinion
This wasn’t a particularly needy school. Nor was it very poor in
comparison to other schools in the area or in Pakistan. This school was a window
on education in Northern Pakistan and the problems the area faces.
In reaction to my arrival the school children had lined up in two rows
leading from the playground steps to the first classroom. They formed a sort of
corridor that I was forced through and showered with petals along the way. I
asked how many other ‘distinguished’ guests visited each year. The reply was
But the reception was lovely and shows the attitude of the people here to any
kind of guest be it the Prime Minister or a scruffy horse rider from England .
The chief coordinator of this school visit was Shamalaal, field education
officer for the Aga Khan Education Service (AKES) branch in Hunza valley. The
AKES operate this school.
The Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of the Ismailies, the predominant
religion of Hunza and of much of Pakistan ’s Northern Areas. Although some
schools were opened in the early twentieth century, the real push has been since
the fifties. Then the prior Aga Khan, recognizing the need, set up an
educational institution to encourage learning and promote the development of the
people of North Pakistan . It has been an uphill struggle ever since. This
school visit showed how previous problems have been overcome, what the present
issues are and what the future holds for Northern Pakistan.
With the children assembled I gave a great show. After telling the story of
my ride and my own background the kids quickly answered questions on the story
they’d heard. They won pens (specially imported from Bolton in the UK) and a few
of the courageous ones rode on Sparks, my riding mare. We then covered the
children’s future. But stop! Why were these children different? What made them
different to virtually every other school I’ve visited so far? These students
had an opinion!!
Each child genuinely answered what their favourite subject was. There was
never a need for one child to copy another which always happens in other
schools. Urdu, Maths and English! What do you want to be when you get older? Ten
examples named. Doctor, lawyer, actor, engineer and soldier. Each child had a
personality. Each one even had a favourite city in Pakistan.
This school wasn’t a private school nor some upstart Government school. This
school is run in conjunction with the community who, it seems, have the greater
say in its running. AKES provide training to the teachers and community as well
eighty percent of the costs. The community must put up the remainder. There is a
strict parent-teacher committee to ensure all have an equal partnership in the
running of the institution. All parents must also pay 100 Rs per month for their
child to attend. The general plan is to hand the running of the school over to
the Community in the next twenty years.
Looking around DJ school, Garelth was like looking around a school in the
West. Each classroom wall was adorned with alphabet letters and multiplication
tables. The creativity of the children was further stimulated through painting
and drawings. The teachers are also constantly motivated. Surrounding the
staffroom were progress charts and statistics on the school. Little signs in
English were plastered haphazardly around; “Read to your children, listen to
your children,” “Be the first to say hello,” “Don’t be afraid to say, I’m
sorry.” English offers the children the best opportunities in the future
What really impressed me was that the school wasn’t just educating the
children it was educating the community at large. The parents of these students
can see the progress made and for the first time visibly recognize the potential
of their own offspring ?€“ The pass rate in 2005 was 96%. This makes them want
to learn as well. DJ Garelth was a focal point for the area. Case in point: the
caretaker of the school was a fulltime mother of a four children. Yet she was so
keen to earn the fee to keep her children at the school, she became its’
The potential of this system is undeniable. When I was young, my parents had
the impetus to place wall charts, learning materials around my room at home.
Thus will the parents of these children begin to do so. Across Northern Pakistan
the AKES have opened up hundreds of Diamond Jubilee (DJ) schools like this one.
In Nagar valley alone there are 23 female only schools. Yet, as always there are
A struggle to make ends meet
People are poor in the mountainous areas where life is harder than on the
plains. Staple items like rice, dal and tea are more expensive and it’s a
greater struggle to make ends meet. People are more concerned about day to day
life, than the long term future of their children or the region. School dropouts
are a major problem (especially for boys) as parents view only a minimum
education as a sufficient one. Girls may not even get a chance. However, such
schools like DJ Garelth are a beacon of hope. In many parts of Pakistan ,
parents aren’t even given a choice about the education of their children or
probably don’t even know about it. Many parents in remote areas view education
as a waste of time, simply because they don’t see the value of it.
It’s a slow process. As more schools open, more students go onto graduate and
more skilled labour enters a region. I understood in Nagar that the investment
that a graduate makes in his home region is infinitely worth more than the money
needed to get him adegree. As the skill base of an area increases so does its
prosperity and development. Education is the key and schools like Garelth help
that future come a little bit closer.
Over the coming two years, Diamond Jubilee (DJ) School Garelth will be
upgraded to a Middle School as the school curriculum expands to include classes
six, seven and eight. At the time of writing, three new classrooms and a
computer room were being completed but two more classrooms are still needed.
Future funding from the AKES is uncertain and if you can help in anyway, please
contact as stated below.
Aga Khan Education Service (AKES), Aliabad, Gilgit District, PAKISTAN
Alternatively contact : AKES Head office,
Gilgit on 00-92- (5811)-54291 and 54291