“It’s a moment of happiness and confidence for us as we did not let the system get disrupted. The children were more than thrilled to be back studying and their eyes were full of hope,” Gilgit Baltistan Chief Secretary Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani told Aaj News. “We have not just brought the situation to normalcy but we have improved it.”
In order to make it memorable, two female parliamentarians inaugurated the Girls Middle School in the Samigul on Tuesday for students who were all smiles. The Diamer commissioner, Chilas deputy commissioner, and Darel assistant commissioner attended. The school was about to open on Monday but the ceremony was delayed due to weather.
More than 60 girls are enrolled. They now have an IT lab and library. The corridors are covered in posters of the founders of Pakistan. Since the school is located in the north, wood material and sheets have been used so it stays warm in winter.
“This is a much better school than before. It will now be considered among some of the good schools in GB,” he said. “It took four to five days to remake it.”
The literacy rate of girls in the region is only 7%, he said to a query. According to Wani, the number of students has increased in the school after the arson attack. The chief secretary was of the view that it would have gone down if education was discouraged with acts of arson. It increased 20% over the last four days because of the rebuilding efforts.
Additionally, in the past, the school meals programme has tripled the enrollment rate in many schools. The government has planned to expand it from 30 to 50 schools.
A cup of tea
“When the building was being restored in the past three to four days, one girl was so happy after seeing the quality of the building construction that she made tea and brought it from her house for every labourer and people working there and said: ‘You have made a school for me and this is a gift for you from my side’,” Wani said.
He reiterated that as compared to past attacks no group has taken responsibility for the November 8 arson. He claimed that some people who in the past used to get involved in such activities had also joined the rebuilding efforts. “This is the most delightful thing.”
He said the turnout of girls has given miscreants a clear message: we will seek knowledge. “We will not back down from this fundamental right.”
‘We want to study come what may’
“Why our school was torched? Who burnt down our school? We want to study,” primary class student Sareena said in her mother tongue Shina as other classmates watched her giving the interview for Aaj News.
“We want to study whatever the weather is, summer or winter or snowfall, we will get an education and become doctors, and teachers and get a job.”
School protection committees
In order to prevent such attacks, the administration has formed 250-member school protection committees with the community. It would include community leaders, administration representatives, and Levies, who have also been directed to protect and patrol around the girls’ school in the area.
“Now we have an increased level of protection with the help of the local community,” Wani said, adding that GB Scouts would also patrol the area.
By registering a case against unidentified persons, who burnt the school, the law enforcement agencies started the investigation and a joint investigation team has also been formed.
‘You made impossible possible’
Suriya Zaman, the parliamentary secretary for Education Department in GB, who inaugurated the school congratulated the people involved in the renovation.
“Because this was an impossible task, nothing was left after school was torched. You worked round the clock and renovated it. This school is beautiful.”
She lauded the response of the local community to the attack, saying that no one condemned the 2018 one back when as many as twelve schools were wiped out in a similar way. “This time people condemned it, came forward, and protested against it. I am thankful for the youth,” Zaman said, “the twelve schools have been rehabilitated but they are not functional.”
The parliamentarian described the rebuilding as a “big moment” as the people continued to work despite the harsh weather.
‘Great moment for us’
HafizUllah Chilasi, an activist, said that it was a great moment for him and others who are advocating for women’s education in the region
“The girls showed their determination to get an education.”
He described the November 8 incident as an attack on the future of the area’s women and the whole generation of the region. “The community stood against terrorists and miscreants who demolished our schools and the youth across district Diamer and GB protested against the terror activities.”
The community altogether supports education for women, Chilasi said.