Feeling elated as their call to help is finally being answered, the students, parents and teachers of the Government Kinnaird Girls High School cannot hide their happiness as they talk about the new blocks of class rooms rapidly coming up on the premises, emblematic of a rising hope. The latest person to lend an ear is none other than the IMC Worldwide Board Director and Adviser, Mathew Honey. On his whistle stop tour to Pakistan, he squeezed a ten-hour long journey to Lahore to get a first-hand feel of the DFID-assisted School Construction & Rehabilitation Programme (SCRP) which is breaking new ground in the two provinces of Punjab and KP; promising to add over 17,000 classrooms and other missing facilities to existing government schools here.
The positive buzz that punctuates the schools ambience in the early days of construction work is understandable. Waiting for this development has been a long time coming. "We feel our prayers have been finally answered," remarked Dr. Rizwana, the jubilant school principal while proudly conducting a tour for the visitors at the construction site. She explained that after years of wear and tear and no repair work many school buildings across Punjab had become derelict and unsafe to hold classes. For the most part, the persistent pleas of students, teachers and parents had fallen on deaf ears. Then, to add to the misery, came Pakistan's one of the most devastating earthquakes in 2005 that razed hundreds of schools, killing over 17,000 children with thousands others rendered "too dangerous for holding classes". Subsequently, the conducting of classes in the open, exposed to frequently harsh weather conditions, became a normal practice.
Thankfully, following a decade of gross neglect, the desperately needed work of reconstruction has been taken up and a critical mass of international, national and local support has been achieved. There are at least 892 school buildings across Punjab that have been declared dangerous. As a remedial action, the DFID assisted Humqadam (SCRP) Programme is playing its part to showcase quality construction work in 32 schools spread over 16 districts. The hope is to provide a much needed minimum design standard for education infrastructure in the province so as to ensure safe, secure schools with accommodations and specialised designs that take into account the needs of differently-abled children; schools that foster a more inclusive educational environment.
Mathew Honey also made a quick stop at the Higher Secondary Boys School in Ghoray Shah, where an additional 20 new class rooms and 20 new toilets are being built to provide quality space, water and sanitation facilities. It is estimated that post-construction, schooling would be made easy, even enjoyable, for over 5000 students enrolled in the said schools. The President of the Parent Teacher Associations, Mrs. Zaman, who has unbroken loyalty with the school as she has been a student here, conducted the visit. She explained in an affectionate manner that the process of wider engagement with the community seemed to have been successful, “….we take turns to supervise the construction work and to make sure that the new school building will be ready in three months". Bolstered by this new-found hope, the school principal extended an open invitation to Mr. Matthew Honey to visit again, once the construction is completed, so that the school staff may celebrate this dream coming true with all those who helped to make it a reality.