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After flooding, a school emerges

Makeshift education in flood-hit rural Pakistan

Children study at a makeshift school Children study at a makeshift school
  • Ayyaz Gulzar, Kotri
  • Pakistan
  • July 16, 2012
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In a village in Sindh province's Korti district, a food storage shed has been serving as the only classroom for children in a community still bearing the effects of 2010's floods.

A thatch roof supported by mud pillars and walls shelters more than 70 children, aged 5 to 13, who arrive in the afternoon after working with their parents on farms all morning. A whiteboard, teacher’s chair and floor mat are the room’s only fittings. A bed frame supports the white board, beside sacks of wheat grains.

“The children, though awake since early morning, come very excited. None of them have ever been to school,” said Shazia Hadayat, one of the school's two teachers. “It’s a three-hour class which focuses on primary education and hygiene.”

In August 2010, the area was flooded by monsoons.  Many local people incurred heavy debts after their crops were destroyed in flash floods that killed about 2,000 and affected 20 million people. The flooding covered one fifth of the country and caused an estimated $9.7 billion in damage to infrastructure, farms and homes.

The school opened in April 2011, when Father Samson Shukardin, Hyderabad diocese's vicar-general, was helping affected farmers, distributing free seeds, house-building material and establishing several medical camps.

“I was with the Caritas Pakistan team distributing aid when we saw a number of children hanging around the devastated village located near a river. I thought of providing them books and school bags,” he said. "We will expand the rooms if they continue showing interest and the attendance increases."

Harri Chand, a Hindu sharecropper whose son attends the school, said he still has to pay back 80,000 rupees (US$845) to his farm owner. “I purchased seeds and fertilizers, and the landlord was expecting a 50 percent share in the profit. However the whole crop of cotton and vegetables was swept away, and now I have to earn my freedom."

Kishan, his 12-year-old son, earns 30 rupees a day working in the fields. “I want to become a doctor and help my community," he said. "I take a bath and change my clothes before going to study but they get dirty in the evening when I feed the cattle."

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