A unique school in 'parha likha Punjab'

RAWALPINDI, Sept 6: The Government Primary School, Harwan, is unique among institutions of its kind: it is co-educational, has five rooms for 500 students, 200 of whom sit on benches while 300 squat on mats. And all rush homewards in times of need as the school has no toilets.

Started as a boys school it became co-educational when girls of the area eager to get education could not find a separate school for themselves. Admission of the girls swelled the rolls to nearly five hundred. Now the mixed lot of students share the five rooms of the school, at least 80 to a class, the overfill spilling to the open outside. Of the 500 only 200 have benches to sit, the rest squat on the floor.

The credit for allowing the girls to join a boys school goes both to the school administration as well as the parents. Both showed remarkable courage in taking the decision as in the atmosphere of growing religiosity and extremism, in which even baby girls are being forced to take the veil, they must have faced stiff opposition of the obscurantists.

The school has accommodated students beyond its physical capacity. Three of the rooms are in a poor condition and need urgent repair work to the roofs and walls. The condition becomes precarious when it rains. The students are sent home as it would be risky to keep them under the run-down roofs. A section of the boundary wall needs rebuilding but the school is strapped for funds. Educational inspectors who come on their periodical rounds fail to notice the situation as that is what they see in all the schools of the division.

The standard of education can be gauged from the time and attention a teacher could give to a class of 80 students. The number in the pre-nursery class is even more daunting at 140.

Among other essential facilities that the school does not have are toilets for such a large number of students including a considerable proportion of girls and six women teachers among a staff of 11.

Though the school is unique, its problems are not. Almost all the schools of the division in the parha likha Punjab are faced with similar problems. Dawn

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