Desire for School
Monika Girls High School & College Bagrot Valley (Pakistan), 2015
Our visit to the Bagrot valley in October was again undisturbed this year. The agricultural everyday life went its usual course, away from the troubled conditions in the provincial capital Gilgit 20 km away and throughout the country. Safety is no problem in the Bagrot valley.
Finally it was over with the miserable power supply. The new hydropower plant in the village of Hope was back in operation after a mud and stone avalanche had paralyzed it for a few weeks. Also the mobile phone network in the valley worked this time without interruptions.
For the first time we met a female car driver on the main road of the valley, which is a pure sand and gravel road. The young woman carries together with her husband their vegetables and fruits for sale in a small van to Gilgit every day. Driving is today a wish of many women. She was allowed to make it true and at the same time earns money. This will find imitators. I suggested a taxi service for women.
Fortunately, the October 26 earthquake had no dramatic impact on the Bagrot Valley, as our friends have told us. And we had already returned to Germany a week earlier.
On October 10, an open house for the mothers was first held. It was a special event for the girls of the girls' school. Everyone had their big performance in the auditorium. And it was a pleasure to see how self-confidently they made speeches and recited poetry, performed sketches that satirized life in Bagrot yesterday and today, told jokes and always sang with much verve. At the beginning of the event, I was allowed to hoist the Pakistani flag. A flagpole is part of the basic equipment of every high school and was built just in time. After the event, the singing almost did not end, all students remained in the auditorium. The girls rarely have the opportunity to sing. Music and music are traditionally not well regarded and are not taught in schools. In recent years, I hear girls singing at school events more often. Hundreds of zealous schoolgirls will not give in not even to the most stubborn teachers and old men.
Monika Girls High School and CollegeGood news: The school board has signalized that it will announce 11 high school teacher posts. If this notification is followed by action, the new government teachers could start working in the summer of 2016, and after more than two decades, the high school would be in the responsibility of the government. Then we can concentrate on college lessons. There is still plenty to do there. Under these circumstances we could easily do without the affectionate addition ‘Monika’ in the name of the school.
Pupils and StudentsToday, 222 high school students visit the ten classes of the High School, and 50 female students attend the four college classes (grade 11-14). Experience has shown that the number of female students increases in the first few months of the new school year. The 9th and the 10th grade are again relatively large, the students come from all the villages of the valley. The privately funded teachers of both high school classes have been repeatedly praised for their good performance. Overall, the number of students at all schools in the Bagrot Valley is falling steadily. In many families, the birth rate has been lower for several years than ever before. And more and more families are leaving the valley, settling near the city of Gilgit. There is work outside the agricultural sector and a variety of educational offers for the children. They cost money that the migrant families can earn by selling farm produce and gainful employment today. The results of the year exams of most grades were satisfactory to good. The results of exams in the 8th grade less. According to the parents, some teachers in the government school service are not adequately qualified or often stay away from teaching without being subject to sanctions. During the winter holidays in January we will once again offer special education in all natural sciences at the request of many students.
The results of the college students' year exams were above the procincial average of Gilgit-Baltistan, which includes the Bagrot Valley.
Overall, the female students in Bagrot have been doing better on average for years than boys. They are obviously inquisitive and diligent. This was reported by teachers and parents. For many girls, especially the older ones, attending school still represents a luxury in addition to their many household and agricultural tasks that they want to enjoy and extend as long as possible. Many students also told me so. This requires appropriate offers on site. Visiting educational facilities outside the Bagrot Valley is unaffordable to most families and is largely reserved for the sons.
The TeachersFifteen privately funded teachers work in high school and college classes, alongside thirteen government-employed primary and middle school teachers (grades 1-8). Since September 2014 another teacher teaches the middle school students (6th-8th grade) in the village of Sinakir. The path to the central girls' school in Datuchi runs for several kilometers along steep slopes that are prone to slip-off. The daily walk is unreasonable for the smaller girls. And a public transport offer does not exist within the valley.
From October 2015, we have again increased the salaries of all privately funded teachers by a standard lump sum. The government had also decided in the summer to raise salaries for the government school service.
Private teachers are changing more often today than they used to, due to relocations or lucrative job opportunities in Gilgit. It takes a lot of effort on the part of the two local coordinators to find qualified substitutes again and again. At the same time, quite a few parents are skeptical about the teaching quality of many government teachers at the girls' schools.
Monthly salaries of donor-funded teachers at school and college are between 60 and 120 euros, depending on qualifications, experience and subject. The total monthly salary costs are 1.500 €.
4. College ClassDue to the high demand from the young women in the valley, since September 2014 a fourth year of college (4th college year or 14th school year) has been offered. Sufficiently qualified teachers could be recruited. However, they also change relatively often because they are shifted to a location outside Bagrots. All work full-time at government educational institutions in the mornings and teach college students in the afternoons.
The big computer roomThe long-awaited computer room has been in operation for a year. A young woman from outside Bagrots teaches in the morning as an IT teacher. The students are enthusiastic about the practical lessons, less about the theory, as the teacher complains to us. The construction of the additional classroom was financed by donations two years ago. The technical equipment was provided by the school board as part of a promotional project for a few selected schools in the province of Gilgit-Baltistan. There is no internet access because the network in Bagrot is not yet sufficiently developed. The computer room is a real exception in the middle of all other classrooms. These correspond to the standard of state schools in the region.
The small chemistry labMeanwhile, the school also has a small laboratory for chemistry, biology and physics lessons. So far, the chemistry lesson was only theoretical, due to lack of materials. This changes now. We have arranged for the necessary chemicals etc. to be obtained from donations. Nevertheless, the chemistry lab is in a sad state. The two existing metal sinks have neither water connection nor drain lines. These are completely uncommon in classrooms of government schools, as well as sockets. Most of them have only light. The chemistry teacher uses household buckets and can now perform at least simple experiments
Lessons for hearing impaired childrenTeacher Nabila, deaf herself, has been teaching 4 children in sign language, reading, writing and basic arithmetic for more than two years. This year we bought her a refurbished laptop. With this she can use new teaching materials. The four students graduated again from the Government Girls' School in the village and were once again the best in their class. We would like to move lessons from the private room to the grounds of a nearby school. But there is no room left.
Fundraisers in 2015
Donations go 100% to the school. I thank all supporters for their dedication to the good cause.
School instead of personal sponsorships
With kind Regards from Hamburg
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