Government Kinnaird High School for Girls, Lahore brought the perfect setting for a short but impactful visit for UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as he basked in his role as a passionate advocate for girls’ education. Accompanied by DFID Pakistan’s Head Joanna Reid, Boris Johnson received a heartfelt welcome from the students and teachers of the school, which went beyond the traditional roadside billboards.
Up till a month ago, more than a thousand girls at the school were forced to attend classes in cramped and precarious classrooms. Today the Kinnaird High School turned a new page in its 152 years long history, when the visiting Foreign Secretary unveiled the commemorative plaque to mark the completion of the Fatima Jinnah Academic Block. This new block, built with the assistance of the UK government, has 23 new classrooms and 11 toilets, which brings the student to classroom ratio down from 90 students per classroom to 60 students per classroom; which falls short of the recommended ratio of 40 students per classroom. The silver lining here is that this intervention has inspired the Punjab government to construct its own academic block of 6 new classrooms, which may bring that ratio further down to 52 students per classroom.
Government Kinnaird High School for Girls is one 32 dangerous schools across Punjab where the DFID-assisted Humqadam Programme is replacing unsafe and unhygienic classrooms with safe and nurturing learning places.
The visiting Foreign Secretary took a special interest in the school’s Visual Aids Project Room, where students-prepared handicrafts and models were on display creatively depicting important cultural, scientific and environmental issues. The students, put at ease by Boris Johnson’s friendly and disarming manner, opened up their hearts and excitedly explained their projects to the visitors.
Immediately after that, they went into the newly constructed classrooms to get a real feel of the much-improved educational experience of the girls at the school. Boris Johnson connected well with the students during his short interaction in the classroom and answered some of their questions. He also asked the students about the impact the new safe and well-lit classrooms were having on their time in school. To this Anum of Class 9 responded, “Sitting in these new classrooms, we no longer feel depressed because these [classrooms] are bright and airy, and they make learning fun.”
After visiting the new classrooms, Boris Johnson unveiled a commemorative plaque, officially inaugurating the new Fatima Jinnah block. Speaking at the occasion the visiting Foreign Minister said, “The school has everything it needs to be successful; amazing teachers, a beautiful new building, all this [support] coming from the UK and most importantly, its bright students keen to learn.”
Before ending his 30-minute long visit, the dignitaries observed a practice session of the school’s newly-formed cricket team. Present at the occasion was Pakistan Women’s Cricket Team member Samia Siddiqui.
Inclusion of a school visit in his maiden visit to Pakistan packed with heavy agenda of meetings with the Prime minister, chief minister and high ranking officials illustrates UK government's deep commitment to improvement of educational infrastructure in Pakistan. Humqadam is implementing School Construction and Rehabilitation Programme is DFID's largest education infrastructure improvement initiative.