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September 25, 2017

Crumbling public college in Gulzar-e-Hijri a deathtrap for students


September 25, 2017

How often does one risk their life to acquire an education? For over 3,000 students of the Government Degree Boys College in Gulzar-e-Hijri that seems to be the case every single day. 

While one could laud the show of commitment by the students, it could prove much more constructive to focus on the issue forcing them to risk life and limb for academic progress – criminal negligence on the part of government authorities and contractors hired to build college or school buildings.   

A marvel of substandard construction, the college has run out of space to accommodate students as most of the classrooms remain unusable thanks to caving roofs and crumbling walls.          A teacher at the college, Aslam Pervaiz, shared with The News that pieces of debris fall off the roof of classrooms almost every day. This state of affairs has compelled the administration to have classes conducted in rooms which are still intact, he said.

Although made functional in 2002, the college’s construction work had begun in 1992. “It has only been over a decade since the building came into use but due to low quality construction material used in the building, its condition worsened in no time,” said the teacher.

Pervaiz stated that the Gulzar-e-Hijri college was among six colleges that former city mayor, Naimatullah Khan, had got constructed. He further informed The News that among the most affected parts of the building were the college’s library, seminar hall, staff room as well as the principal’s office.

“Last year, the roof of the library caved in; fortunately for us no casualties occurred as the incident happened at night when the building was empty.” Since then the library is awaiting restoration. The books that the administration was able to salvage are, for now, kept in another room. “We have no space to put up the treasure of books - 5,000 in number -,” said Perviaz, adding that thousands of books kept in the storeroom are at risk of being ruined.   

“We have no authority to seal the college; we can only inform the concerned authorities of its condition,” said Mushtaq Ahmed Abbasi, the college’s principal.  The building is a serious threat to the lives of students but the administration is compelled to conduct classes inside the building, he said.  

Efforts for restoration

Abbasi said they approached the office of the Sindh Director General Colleges as well as the office of the Director Colleges, Karachi, for the building’s reconstruction but, unfortunately, nothing came of it.

In March 2017 a survey team from the office of the chief executive engineer of Sindh Education Works Division visited the college to calculate the cost of repairs.

In April, the chief executive engineer and some of the team members again came for a visit and told the college administration that it would take around Rs85 million to have the building rehabilitated.

“According to officials of the Education Works Division, they have forwarded a summary to the higher authorities but it is yet to be approved,” Abbasi revealed.

However, Secretary for Colleges Pervaiz Ahmed Sehar when contacted by The News, vowed to visit the college as he claimed that all colleges  of the province are his priority.

After asking where exactly the college is located, he said that although it fell under the jurisdiction of director colleges, Karachi, but he will also personally visit it.  

Helpless students, parents

“Anxious parents frequently visit the college and complain about its condition,” the principal stated. The anxiety is no less for students either.

“I got admission in the college via the Centralised Admission Policy (CAP), but when I came to know of the condition the college’s building is in, I got really upset,” said Nabil Ahmed, a student of second year.

  School to students belonging to various parts of the city, he said that majority of them come to know of what conditions they will be studying in when they reach the college on their first day - according to CAP’s policy the students at the time of admission have no idea which college they will be placed in.