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March 30, 2015

A tale of displaced students in Hamza constituency!


March 30, 2015

It was in May last year when 357 students of the Government Modern Middle School, Takkia Sadhuwan, were shifted to a nearby public sector school after cracks appeared in the school building, situated in the Walled City’s Akbari Gate area of Lahore.
And what could be termed a perfect case of official apathy and indifferent attitude of those at the helm, the building of the Govt “Modern” Middle School, though vacant, is yet to be repaired or reconstructed. The management of the school, situated in the constituency of Hamza Shahbaz (NA-119) and MPA Salman Rafiq (PP-142), had first reported the appearing of cracks in the building to the authorities concerned on Sept 20, 2012. In 2014, the students of Govt Modern Middle School were shifted to the nearby Govt Tehzeeb-ul-Binnat Girls High School, Akbari Gate. However, after the summer vacation, in the wake of the resentment, shown by the parents and the teachers, they were shifted to the Govt Junior Model School, Mochi Gate, situated some 500 meters away from the original school. After this ‘special’ treatment of the school, the number of students dropped to 241, from 357 last year, as the school is operating in the second shift. The three-storey vacant building with cracks in walls of almost all 15 classrooms poses a serious threat to the adjacent residential buildings in the congested locality.
Parents wonder why the PML-N government has failed to reconstruct a school building in almost one year, as the same government had constructed 27-kilometre long Lahore Metro Bus project in a record time of only 11 months. For the mother of Ali Sher and Maryam, both class-3 students, it has become really tough to send them in the evening shift as her other kids go to school in the morning. “It is really hard to manage their tuition and Quran learning timings after they return from school late in the evening,” she says.
The area falls in union council number 28, where the number of private schools

is more than the government schools. According to the last year’s Universal Primary Education (UPE) survey of this union council, there are over 7,000 children of age group 4-16 years. And to meet the educational needs of the children, there are two government high schools, one government middle school (the displaced one) and around five government primary schools, while the number of private schools exceeds 10 in this UC.
“By delaying the reconstruction of the school, the government seems bent on leaving the poor people at the mercy of unregulated private schools,” says one of the locals, Muhammad Ali Attari. Another resident, Rehan Latif, came down hard on elected representatives of his area, saying they had no interest in addressing real issues of their constituents. “They are vote-hungry and have no sympathy whatsoever with their voters,” he said dejectedly.
The documents available with ‘The News’ show that the school management did its best to attract the attention of the authorities concerned, but to no avail. The story of these “internally displaced students” and their neglected school comes from Lahore, the heart of Punjab rather Pakistan; therefore, it is quite easy to imagine the official response to schools and students in far-flung areas, especially those in south Punjab.
For the 66-year old Abdul Waheed Butt, who had been a student at the Govt Modern Middle School in mid-50s and currently lives in a house situated on the back of the school, the concern vis-à-vis the school’s dangerous building is twofold: it is a threat to the adjoining buildings and it also shows government’s apathy towards education of students.
While the exact history of the school building is not known, locals say it is a pre-Partition building and had been used as “patwar khana” and “zanan khana” before the creation of Pakistan.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, while presiding over a meeting on Punjab Schools Reforms Roadmap on March 28, said the system of punishment and reward should be fully adopted with regard to implementation of the education roadmap.
Many locals, while talking to The News, said Shahbaz Sharif was known for his education friendly initiatives, and they hoped that he would personally look into the matter if the news story reaches him after its publication. EDO Works & Services Lahore Mohammad Saeed, when contacted, said he had visited the school two months ago. He admitted that the building was in a very bad condition and it required truck-loaded machinery for carrying out repairs, which was not possible because of the congested area. He said his office was waiting for the final report from the Director Building Research Station and action would be taken in the light of the report, to be submitted in a couple of days.
EDO Education Lahore Muhammad Pervaiz Akhtar said the estimated cost of the reconstruction project was too big to be provided in the current budget.
He, however, said the project would be started in the upcoming summer vacation on priority basis after allocation of special funds in the next budget.
When contacted District Officer (Elementary) Raees Ahmed said the delay was primarily because of the Works & Services Department as it took too much time to declare the building dangerous. He said the estimated cost of the building reconstruction was around Rs10 million.

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