School Day Routine:
Blackouts, Strikes and inquisitive Students
Monika Girls High School & College Bagrot Valley (Pakistan), 2014
Our visit to the Bagrot Valley in June was marked by various events. In turn: The weather was mixed - sun, wind and rain alternated, unusual for the first summer month. The mobile network, the only option for telecommunications within the valley and out, was closed for almost two weeks - the reasons remained in the dark. It also remained dark all too often due to the lack of power supply, the new hydroelectric power plant will now start operation in the summer. During our stay we saw several holidays and for the first time strikes of the teachers of the government schools.
Operation at the Monika Girls High School ran at this time intermittently. The teachers of the school are a mix of government teachers and privately funded teachers. Some days it was not clear whether or not there was a strike, due to the lack of communication with the teachers' union in the provincial capital Gilgit. There most strike events happened, some in Bagrot, accompanied by parents and students. As a rule, privately funded teachers appeared to their shift. The students were sometimes poorly informed - quick calls to clarify were not possible - and did not attend classes if they lived further away. The classes continued without them and the annoyance of the absent girls of the higher grades was correspondingly high. During our regular visits to the school, we got it all - and got the trouble directly.
217 students attend the 10 classes of high school and 86 students the three college classes. Due to the great demand from young women in the valley, we want to offer for the first time a fourth college class in September. The prerequisite is that suitably qualified teachers can be recruited. After the summer holidays we will know more. Our local friends are trying to attract outside teachers to teach in the Bagrot Valley. Good teachers usually try to find a job in Gilgit or near the city. The number of schools and colleges there is large and still growing. There is a lot of demand. Small-scale, we experience for some years a strugle for the best minds. I am confident that two teachers will be found, as many of the sons and daughters of Bagrot who have left are prepared to work in the valley on a few afternoons a week as part of a second job. A small motorcycle makes the trip in less than an hour. In total, there are 8 privately funded high school teachers (in addition to 13 government teachers) and seven college classes. The students are very satisfied with the quality of the lessons. The school still attracts students from the neighboring villages, although there are now government schools. Their quality is openly criticized. Reason are often permanently absent teachers. So far, the central school authority seems to be taking only hesitant measures against this maladministration that spreads throughout Pakistan. At least they do not show convincing results yet.
The results of the year exams of most grades were satisfactory to good. The central examination tasks are demanding and assume fully equipped schools.
We have decided to increase the salaries of all privately funded teachers from July by a lump sum approximating the salary increase that the government sets for government staff.
The computer room has now been equipped. Still missing are enough strong power connections. We have commissioned these. 28 PCs and 2 printers, desks and chairs are available for special education.
In another classroom, a small laboratory for chemistry lessons has been set up. So far, the lessons were purely theoretical, due to lack of materials.
From September on, a new teacher will teach middle school students (6th-8th grade) in the village of Sinakir. The footpath to the central girls' school in Datuchi runs for several kilometers along steep slopes that are susceptible to slipping. One middle school teacher is already funded by the village community.
Generally, the number of students at the schools in the Bagrot Valley has dropped, especially in the younger classes. The reason is the lower birth rate in many families. Today four children are considered to be sufficient given the financial resources of largely agricultural households and for the future care of the elderly. Pakistan only has a pension system for government employees, which is usually insufficient to cover the cost of living.
Our small test project from last year, the schooling of hearing impaired children shows first successes. The three students passed their second grade exam at the Government Girls' School of their village. The three have achieved top marks and outdistanced the ‘normal’ students! Teacher Nabila, herself deaf, is incredibly proud of this result, the three as well. We hope that this result will form a precedent. Together with some teachers, we make every effort to ensure that the dwarf class can move to the rooms of the nearby school after the summer holidays. So far, lessons are taking place off the school paths in a private room.
From the Bagrot valley a heartfelt and many-voiced “Thanks” to all who support the girls' school so unselfishly! For that I would like to thank all of you. Still each contribution is indispensable for the continuation.
Best Regards from Hamburg
Yours Monika Schneid
Hamburg, July 2014
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