Dire straits: With 20 desks and two closets, can one middle school do the math?

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The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has declared an education emergency in the province and poor enrolment is recognised as a key challenge. However, enrolment can’t be effectively addressed if public schools don’t have the capacity to facilitate students.

Government English Medium Middle School No 4 in Haripur serves as a reminder that the government has a lot of work to do to make good on its promise to make education a priority.

Situated in the heart of the city on Northern Circular Road, this school is equipped with only 20 desks but has 85 students enrolled in grade six, seven and eight. Even so, the school’s principal, Sarfaraz Khan, claims their policy is not to enrol more than 40 students.

At least 50 new students were recently refused admission for the upcoming academic year due to the shortage of space and furniture.

Under the sizzling sun

The middle school section has only two steel cupboards for storage and one chair for teachers. Lessons are taught on the veranda outside, with the scorching summer sun streaming in from both sides. Children sit in the heat for up to six hours, leaving them vulnerable to dehydration and other conditions.

“I am really concerned about the health of my son, because he sits out in the open; sometimes with the sun facing him,” said Shafique, a resident of Mohallah Asif. The concerned father has made several attempts to get the attention of the local political leadership as well as the education department but no one has responded.

“The children sit in the sun because there is no space inside the building nor is there any furniture for them to sit on,” shared Principal Sarfaraz Khan.

The children from the area, who were turned away recently, were sent to schools in other neighbourhoods. “However, the policy of the education department is that children must be enrolled in schools nearest to their homes,” said Khan.

Before 2012, this school was a primary level institution. During former minister for higher education Qazi Asad’s tenure as a lawmaker from PK-50, Haripur-II – the constituency where the school is located – he upgraded it to a middle school. Grade six, seven and eight were added without expanding the building’s capacity or the teaching staff. The same building facilitates the school’s primary students as well.

According to the father of a girl enrolled in grade three, two entire sections for girls are also made to sit outside in the veranda. Confirming this, Khan said the two sections were made to sit on the floor for the same reasons mentioned earlier.

In 2012, the education department banned co-education in government schools following an incident where a male teacher allegedly harassed a girl.

“Despite these clear-cut instructions, the girls in our school have not been shifted to the separate building, which is just a stone’s throw away,” said Khan. According to the principal, over 100 girls from kindergarten to grade four are currently studying alongside middle-school boys. If these students were shifted to the girls school, the space and furniture problem would be solved to better accommodate the remaining student body, he added.

Assistant District Officer Education Qazi Abdullah was not available for comments.

Source:The Express Tribune