Run by Community & Government
The Value of an Education
The jeep carried me high; high above the valley
of nothingness, high to the school in a place of dreams that I was about to
visit. Chapurson valley is the most northerly population in Pakistan, almost
sitting astride the Afghan border. There probably wasn???t a more remote
location for the Government to take an interest in education, yet this was where
I was heading now.
F.G. Middle school in Karmin was a fifty-fifty partnership between the local
community and the Federal Government. The people are Ismaeli Muslims and speak
an unwritten language called Wakki. On showcase today was a perfect example of
what can happen when a community is involved and motivated in the education of
The school sat square astride the center of the valley, as I wandered down
from the road above. Clouds broiled along the surrounding peaks and a stormy
dark menace waded down towards me. It might not have been the best weather, but
it was surely the most beautiful location.
Like at the Aga Khan Education Service (AKES) School in Garelth the year
before, this school was a part of the legendary Hunza kingdom. Not only did the
students have an opinion, they weren???t at all shy to speak English. The walls
carried all the familiar wall-charts and learning aids I???d seen elsewhere in
Hunza and there was a self-confidence in the students that lacked in most parts
of Pakistan. Needless to say enrollment was at a 100%. This school was a product
of itself and its story is worth telling.
In 1994, a Government school was built in Karmin village to cater for 140
students, but with only one teacher. After five years, the local Jamaat (or
village council) became tired of the lack of progress and sought funding for a
second fee based school which they built next door. Time passed and the
government took a renewed interest in the FG school and two more teachers were
appointed. Standards rose and the community saw the folly of maintaining two
schools when one would suffice. In March 2006, the second school was closed and
its five community teachers merged with those of the Government school boosting
its ranks to eight. An EU grant from the second school was also transferred to
the Government one and the Aga Khan Education Service offered technical
assistance, training and support soon after.
Despite being in one of the remotest locations of
all Pakistan, the community showed what was possible when people see the value
of an education and the motivation to improve exists. A school management
committee (from the community) overseas the running of the school and the
culture of involvement has rubbed off on the students. One month ago, the
students approached the teachers to ask if they could form a student body.
Through the supervision of the teachers the students have written a school
conduct code and are responsible for keeping games, activity timetables and the
smooth running of the premises.
In 2008, the Government has promised to send nine new teachers to Karmin
School and the community is continually agitating for better facilities. It???s
a sharp contrast to the resigned attitude of the Government school I visited in
Verokey Cheema (Punjab) and the kind of attitude that needs to be inoculated
into the rest of the country.
The Last Village in Pakistan
What would you do in the last village in the last place of
Mohammad Hussain, (F.G. Primary School,
Before I left Chapurson, I was fortunate to meet two other teachers from near
the village of Zhodkhon at the farthest end of the valley. Mohammad Hussain gave
me another perspective on education in the area and in Pakistan. In his village
of Shitmerck, people are poor and could not afford to send their children to the
AKES School nearby. In 2004, the Government woke up to the fact and a small
Federal run primary school was built. Despite fees of only twenty rupees per
month, only 36 students attend classes and enrollment is low. Parent???s say
they cannot afford the fees but the real problem lies in the value from
education they feel their offspring receive.
Not everyone can be as enthusiastic as the populace of Karmin and the extreme
location and lack of outside influence in Chapurson made me realize something.
If the return from an investment in education cannot be seen by the people then
why should they see its importance? The number of people with higher education
degrees in the entire valley can be counted on one hand - and even named! They
are usually doctors and lawyers and to the greater community, the amount
they???ve so far reinvested in the area is minimal.
As people achieve a higher education they usually gain greater skills and
money to reinvest in their local area. As the number of 1st grade students
increase so do the number who graduate university and life in the area gradually
improves. Other people notice that improvement and see the advantage of sending
their child to school and thus the cycle continues.
Given their location, the motivation and determination of the people of
Chapurson to educate their own is quite amazing. Yet, even in that environment
there are still those who don???t see the value of an education and this is the
case across the country. Traditional, rural Pakistan is in many ways as remote
as Chapurson. There is little contact with the outside world and where there is,
many communities lack the skills and proficiencies to compete effectively. When
life depends on what happens tomorrow, there is little incentive to invest in a
long term education. Education is a slow process and it takes time for roots to
take hold and people to prosper, but when a foundation is laid and people
gradually see the benefits, anything is possible.
Organisations like ActionAid help run and inspire other groups to run schools
and motivate (and keep motivated!) communities like the ones in Chapurson. In
all the school???s I???ve visited in Pakistan, it???s shown through and through
that when the value of an education is seen, people will find any means possible
to make it a reality. Be it the gypsies of Lahore (link), the brick kiln workers
(link) of Gujanwala or the mentally retarded children (link) of Jhelum.
F.G Middle School Karmin has the right attitude and drive to make the most of
any investment. They only need the right push to help them meet their goals.
The school is currently looking for investment to establish a Science
Laboratory, a Library and a Computer Lab. They are also searching for a native
English teacher on a temporary basis.