Story of the Quarter: Every Cloud has a Silver Lining – Girls’ Education
By Malcolm Brabant
Pakistan’s catastrophic flooding last summer is leading to a change in attitudes towards sending girls to school. The floods damaged approximately 10,000 schools, of which more than a third was completely destroyed. Thousands of parents in rural areas have raditionally declined to send their daughters to school. But the flood waters forced them out of their villages into areas where UNICEF has set up Temporary Learning Centres (TLCs) to try to minimise the impact of the disaster on children’s education.
Noor Khatoon, 11, from Dadu District in Sindh province, is one example. She showed a visitor her school, which has been declared unsafe due to waterlogging. In her classroom, there is a pile of books in a cupboard that have turned black and mouldy. There is a tented TLC in the playground, which holds classes for younger pupils. “I want my school to be rebuilt so I can start going to school again,” said Noor.
UNICEF is targeting 1.3 million children aged between four and 12 with education response activities, and is aiming to strengthen education institutions by training over 12,000 teachers. To date, UNICEF-supported TLCs have reached about 240,000 children and more than 4,000 teachers have been trained in child-centred teaching methods.
Further north, in Mulla Wala village in Southern Punjab, Aqsa Rehman, 9, happily rocks backwards and forwards in an open-air TLCwhile reading aloud. Aqsa’s education was greatly disrupted by the floods when her school was destroyed. She has since begun classes at a TLC and is now reading with the full confidence of a fourth grader. “We will come to school, even if we have to struggle for it. We will help our people by replacing everything they have lost in the floods.” said Aqsa. Aqsa’s father, Haji Abdur Reahman, works in a vegetable market in Karachi, hundreds of miles from his family. Nine out of his ten children attend school. “I am educating them so that they have a bright future and a comfortable life,” he said. “When the girls get married, their in-laws will treat them with respect.” The biggest challenge facing UNICEF and the Pakistani authorities is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where a total of 710 schools have been bombed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone in the last two years and more than 640 schools have been destroyed or damaged in Malakand, the worst-hit region in the province.