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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Opening closed doors – Active Citizens in Thatta help two feuding tribes find common ground in education

A community divided
The inhabitants of Daggar Khan Palari Taluka – a  small village in Sindh  can be roughly divided into two tribes. Although members of the two tribes have inhabited the same village for a number of years, their coexistence has been less than harmonious.

The community members reached a point where they minimized their interaction as much as possible: there were no joint community events and no shared celebrations for a number of years. The estrangement left no one untouched – including children and young people.

A tale of two schools
The village had two public schools for children before they were shut down. As time went by and grievances remained unresolved the village folk forbade their children to mix or even share the same school.
Due to negligence of the local education authorities both schools suffered. Structural damage and lack of facilities did not stop the village folk from sending their children to school but it was the loss of teaching staff that finally put the breaks on the learning. Both schools were shut down in 2007.
With the passage of time both schools turned into rundown, vacant buildings with peeling paint and windows with shattered glass. The nearest school was in a village more than 5 kilometers away. In the absence of a school to go to children helped their parents in day-to-day chores.

A helping hand
After completing their Active Citizens training Babar and Tanveer wished to start a Social Action Project that would address the problem of ghost schools – a major concern in rural Sindh.  They surveyed the nearby villages and stumbled upon the village of Daggar Khan Palari Taluka – a community with not one but two abandoned schools. They talked to the local Education District Officer (EDO) and brought the matter to his attention. After a few meetings the EDO arranged a survey of both school buildings.
Monsoons had left the roof of one of the schools in very bad shape and the building was deemed too dangerous to use. The second school building was in relatively better shape and the EDO agreed to arrange teaching staff for it.

To their surprise Babar and Tanveer faced stiff resistance from the community they were trying to help. The demand of the community members: either reopen both schools or neither.
Refusing to abandon the progress they had made with the education department the young Active Citizens talked to members of the two tribes in hopes of starting a dialogue between them.

Let’s talk
“We asked them to give the idea of a single school a chance for the sake of their children”
Getting the two parties to talk seemed to be an uphill task at first. One thing in common people from both tribes though was the love of their children: all parents want to see their children do well.  Babar and Tanveer convinced to sit down and talk about finding ways to secure a better future for their children – a future with more opportunities.
Through these talks the two young people helped the community members to realise that some opportunities remain out of reach without formal education. “We asked them to give the idea of a single school a chance for the sake of their children” says Tanveer.
After much discussion the parent of out of school children agreed to one school for their children.

New beginnings
With the help of the residents of the village and the education department staff Babar and Tanveer helped clean up the school building. Within a week the school building was ready to be used again. The EDO’s office also provided 300 – 400 text books free of cost for the students.
Babar and Tanveer volunteered their time to brush up the students’ basic skills. A young person from the village with a high school degree also showed interest in teaching and soon joined Babar and Tanveer in teaching the eager students.
Now the school has a regular appointed teacher and the enrollment has crossed sixty students. with nearly 60% male and 40%female students and their ages range from 7 years to 11 years. Babar and Tanveer visit the school regularly to see if it is operating smoothly and to offer their help if needed.

1 comment:

  1. We are proud of these young, spirited and courageous Active Citizens of District Thatta Sindh. Sindh Radiant Organization Thatta Sindh, from which they got the training of Active Citizens, boasts on such leaders of the day.
    Noor Serai
    Lead Facilitator
    Active Citizens Programme
    Sindh Radiant Organization and British Council