Our relatively small project has achieved a great deal in 30 years. More on that later.
My project visit to the Bagrot Valley in September/October was long overdue due to the corona-related travel restrictions of the past two years. Life in Bagrot went on as usual, both in everyday life and at weddings and other celebrations. I could convince myself of that. Wearing a mask appears to have become a fashion trait rather than a medical necessity.
This year the college was open regularly again and the new enrollments after the summer holidays were numerous.
World Teachers Day (October 5th) coincided with our visit. The students worked really hard for their teachers and me. They wrote letters of thanks and ‘testimonies’, and organized a small entertainment program combined with delicious food. My teacher friends in Germany were amazed at this appreciation for teachers.
The message from the students was:
"Thank you for guiding, inspiring and making us what we are today. Teachers change the world one child at a time."
The expansion of the school is progressing: In May 2017, the Minister of Education for the province of Gilgit-Baltistan approved the expansion of the Government Girls High School up to the 12th grade. 2 years later the Minister for Public Infrastructure officially upgraded the school to Higher Secondary School. Since then, two of the existing school buildings have been expanded by one floor and the school campus has been leveled and walled. All work was completed this year. The new upper floors with additional classrooms are already being used, even if there is still a lack of furniture and other equipment.
After acceptance by the building authorities, 30-35 positions are advertised, followed by the selection process for the teachers. This administrative procedure, which is common in Pakistan, is lengthy.
For the time being, the recognition of the college financed by donations as a higher secondary school does not mean any relief in terms of project costs.
Monika Higher Secondary School for Girls
Since the Girls High School (grades 1-10) has been adequately provided for by the government, only the teachers for the secondary school years, college grades 11-14, have to be financed from private donations.
200 girls from the village of Datuchi and surrounding hamlets attend the Government Girls High School Datuchi (grades 1-10) and are taught by 25 government-employed teachers. In the 5 other villages in the valley there have been elementary schools for girls for many years. All are very well attended. This speaks volumes for the importance of schooling for girls in Bagrot today.
125 female students are currently attending college classes 11, 12 and 14 at the Monika Higher Secondary School Datuchi. The 13th grade could not start in September because the competent authority wanted to change all college courses from the 13th grade: Extension of the bachelor's courses from 2 to 4 years and expanded teaching content. The old rules apply to the existing 14th grade (4th year of college).
The up to six different class groups are taught by twelve teachers, who we finance with your donations.
The students come from all the villages in the valley. They accept long journeys to school.
"Education at Home" is our maxim. The aim is to make possible what is otherwise not possible in Bagrot. In the past it was going to school, today it is starting a course of study. Study the first years in the Bagrot Valley and not outside in the region's cities where life is expensive. The college classes are mainly attended by daughters from economically disadvantaged families who cannot afford to stay outside. Attending the college is free.
The main subjects taught in the college classes are Urdu, English, sociology, pedagogy, regional studies, economics, Arabic and in the science classes physics, biology and chemistry.
At the same time, one of the team's teachers is responsible for organizational tasks, supported by an assistant for the personal support of the students. The college classes are taught in the afternoons in the then empty rooms of the girls' school.
We increased teachers' salaries in April. Persistently high inflation in Pakistan is having a particularly strong impact on spending on basic food and other essentials. This places a heavy burden on economically poor households, like the majority in Bagrot. The country is in a severe economic crisis that seems to have no end. The crisis was intensified with the floods in many parts of the country this summer. Despite heavy rainfall, the Bagrot Valley was spared major flooding.
Welcome message on a classroom door:
Milestones since 1992
When you Enter this Little room Consider yourself One of the special Members who Enjoy learning.
In the early 1960s, the first local teacher in Bagrot had to go from door to door in the mornings asking and begging for at least one son per household to be sent to school. Then, 30 years ago, there was concern that daughters who could read, write and speak the country's lingua franca would neglect household chores and farm chores and become disobedient. Going to school for girls was long dismissed as an urban idea and angrily commented: "We don't need that in Bagrot. We are farmers."
In the beginning, with some girls - supported by their mothers - it was also a reaction of defiance to go to school against family resistance. When I visited Bagrot, fathers of first-generation schoolgirls again shared with me their doubts and opposition to the good cause for which they are so grateful today. They and we have been able to observe the following among graduates since many years:
The young women marry later, the children come later and as a rule there are fewer children due to family planning. Some graduates study or work outside the home, usually as teachers and in the health sector. For families, this brings the invaluable benefit of regular income.
We also see many changes in everyday life: For example, the students can easily communicate in Urdu, the country's lingua franca, they act more independently, many enjoy a new appreciation in the family and outside, they help their children with school questions and the homework (none of their mothers and grandparents could do that), they dare to go shopping alone and to travel without a male companion - their mothers and grandmothers don't do that.
Brand new: More and more young married women are getting their driver's license and are becoming mobile. Unthinkable just a few years ago.
Our project school was initially attended by girls from all the villages of Bagrot because it was the only girls' school in the entire valley. Under pressure from the population, the authority set up elementary schools for girls in all 6 villages over the course of 10 years.
From 2005 on we also offered college classes. Since then, 820 young women have gone through 2-4 years of college after graduating from high school. We know that 21 former students are now working in school teaching in Bagrot. Many more work in schools outside and as substitute teachers. Today, it is mainly female teachers who are employed at government schools for girls.
The total costs for the teaching staff and material costs of the college financed by private donations amount to 17,000 € for the current school year.
We are very grateful for any support. There are many good examples of this :
- Donations instead of gifts: Relatives and friends have used private events over the year to support a good cause.
- Sewing for a good cause: A friend sews with great commitment in her free time. She donates the profit from the sale of Cologne keychaines, neck pillows, other practical items and, currently, protective face masks for the school project.
- Some permanent donors, long-term supporters and also the members of the Forum Kinder in Not e.V. contribute significantly to the continuation of the project.
I am very grateful for their trust and loyalty.
Public and face-to-face events and campaigns as in the past were unfortunately not possible due to the pandemic.
I would like to thank all the silent donors all the more for their support. They keep the project going.
The students, parents, teachers and many other people from the Bagrot Valley send out a many-voiced Thank You and greetings.
I wish you: Above all, stay healthy!
With kind regards
Hamburg, December 2022
Monika Schneid, Marienthaler St. 156, 20535 Hamburg
Tel. +49-177-8248372, firstname.lastname@example.org
Donation Account: Kreissparkasse Tübingen, IBAN: DE31641500200002753609, BIC: SOLADES1TUB, Forum Kinder in Not e.V. Heading "Pakistan".
Images: Monika Schneid and Hans-Joachim Jupke