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First high school for girls opens in refugee village in Punjab

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UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan Mr. Indrika Ratwatte and Aqeela Asifi inaugurating the new block of the Community Girl School in Kot Chandna Afghan Refugee Village on Wednesday. © UNHCR/A.Shahzad

KOT CHANDNA, MIANWALI, 21 SEPTEMBER 2016 – The first girls’ high school in Kot Chandna refugee village in Mianwali district, Punjab opened on Wednesday. The school called “Community Girls Model School No 2” will teach 11 girls aged between 14-16 years old. The girls will be taught by Ms. Aqeela Asifi – the 2015 Nansen Refugee Award winner. Using the Nansen prize fund of US$100,000, Ms. Aqeela Asifi expanded her middle-secondary school to include higher-secondary classes for 9th and 10th grade pupils. Additional classrooms were built, taking the total to nine and a new science laboratory, which was also built, if fully equipped with beakers, charts, models, microscope and tubes etc which will now cater for 162 girls.

The UN refugee agency representative in Pakistan, Mr. Indrika Ratwatte inaugurated the new school block with government officials, refugee elders and nine teachers. “Ms. Aqeela Asifi’s dedication to promote education for Afghan refugee girls in Pakistan is outstanding and I truly admire what she has been able to achieve and the impact she has had on so many young lives. Every child should be in school with access to quality education so they can build a future for themselves, their families and communities,” said Ratwatte.

“I had to stay home after I completed studies in grade 8 because there were no higher secondary schools in the entire camp,” said Saliha, one of the 11 Afghan refugee students enrolled in grade nine. Saliha who left school in 2010 said that with the upgrading of Aqeela Asifi’s school, many girls like herself will be able to chase their dreams of completing education and perusing career. I want to be a teacher and I know it is possible now,” she added. Ms. Asifi said “I feel elated to see the dreams of my students fulfilled. Education is power and when you have educated mothers, you have educated future generations,” she said.