The hope of a dream: A school where 117 students sit in one room

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 “Quaid-e-Azam met here with elders of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) during the independence movement in the subcontinent,” reads the plaque on the outer wall of Sahibzada Abdul Qayum Khan’s house in Peshawar.

It was at this house where it was decided that the NWFP would join Pakistan. The union was meant to bear generations which would have the freedom to practice religion, culture, and the indiscriminate right to education; generations which were hoped to eventually lead the nation into the free modern world.

The plaque outside the former house of Sahibzada Abdul Qayum Khan recalls days of former glory. The building is now an overcrowded school.

The plaque outside the former house of Sahibzada Abdul Qayum Khan recalls days of former glory. The building is now an overcrowded school.

The historic building situated in the heart of Peshawar is now being used as a girls school. Thousands of students from Mundaberi have studied, learnt and left to serve people, but things are looking less positive now.

Residents of the area are in trouble because Government Girls High School Mundaberi has no space to enrol more children. The school has been accommodating 851 students in only 10 classrooms. Section A for Grade six accommodates 117 students.

Inside Section A – a muggy room – students occupy as much space as they possibly can till the door cuts them off. The teacher stands outside the door and checks their homework; one step inside and its possible a student would be trampled as they sit on the floor. With so many children inside, there is no space to breath – literally. Students often suffer from heatstroke.

Dealt a backhand

A handball team which somehow made it to the provincial level, practices on a small space on the rooftop. Their situation immediately offers up its precarious limitations – each stray ball over the boundary wall is a lost one as the busy marketplace below keeps what falls its way.

“This is the situation we face and this is the situation the education sector faces. Now what do you expect from us?” asked one of the teachers. She preferred to remain unnamed, fearful of the department taking action against her for talking to the media.

“We are 86 students in a room meant for 40. It’s too suffocating. It’s too difficult for us to stay inside the classroom when there is a power shortage,” shared an eighth grade student.  And it is hard to imagine anyone reading or breathing inside these cramped rooms without light or fans.

Conditions seem equally miserable across grades and sections. Both sections A and B for grade 10 accommodate 126 students, grade nine 163, grade eight 178, grade seven 168 and the classroom for both sections of grade six accommodates 216 students. That comes to an average of 85 students in one room.

None of the classrooms are furnished.

 Promises, promises

After several visits and more promises made by the constituency’s former MPA and former health minister Syed Zahir Ali Shah and MNA Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, things continue to fall apart, she points out.

Another teacher, a long time faculty member, complained the school asked to acquire another building, which cost Rs10 million. The education department failed to do so, offering only half the amount,  leaving students to continue under the current circumstances.

Guidelines for the ideal number of students per teacher or per classroom vary from country to country. In Pakistan, a maximum of 60 students should be accommodated within one classroom.

Elementary and Secondary Education Secretary Joudat Ayaz told The Express Tribune the department will reconsider the issue if it solves problems bring faced by female students.

“We will but let us prepare the feasibility report first and forward the case to the planning and development department. We can also allocate funds in the next annual development programme,” he said.

Source: The Express Tribune