Girls` school operating in `dangerous` building
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By Amjad Iqbal | 11/4/2015 12:00:00 AM
TAXILA: Some 400 students at the Government Girls Community Model Primary School in Thatta Khalil are studying within a constant threat to their lives, as they attend classes in a school building that has been declared `dangerous`.

The October 26 earthquake has left the walls and roof of the school with cracks, and students are afraid the school will cave in on them at any moment.

Amna, a student, told Dawn that when students were evacuating the building during the earthquake, parts of the roof came loose, and fell injuring some children. The little girl said she was afraid to go inside the building.

But the school had been suffering from neglect well before the earthquake.

A visit to the campus reveals a block of four rooms on the verge of collapse because of poor construction and maintenance. cracksgrace the walls and the roof, and one wall has caved in.

Another block, constructed fairly recently with support from Norad, the Norwegian Agency for Development, in 2011, is the picture of substandard material and poor construction, featuring cracks so wide that sunlight streams through them. Six washrooms are in such bad condition that they had to be closed, meaning the young girls have nowhere to go when they need to use the bathroom.

A teacher at the school said that rain or wind created a whole other set of problems for the staff and students.

`The roof leaks when it rains and everyone is afraid it will collapse one day. The boundary wall is in terrible condition and needs repairs to withstand strong winds.

This new block has now been cordoned off and classes are being held out in the open. A third grade student, Hina, said sitting out on the ground makes the students more prone to coughs and colds.Even when classes are held inside, students sit on the floor.

A second grade student, Mehwish, told Dawn that students sat on the floor without any padding and with the windows open.

She said her peers often complained of fever and body aches.

School principal Samina Bashir said the school had been declared `model` by the education department because it secured good results.

She said students from nearby villages also attended the school and that if the institution is improved, enrollment could double.

The principal said that officials from the education department visited the school soon after the earthquake and declared one block `dangerous`.

On orders from the officers, she said, the new block was not being used, which meant students had to study outdoors.

According to Ms Bashir, officers from the Punjab MonitoringDepartment had surveyed the school and submitted their report, but no initiatives have been taken by the concerned authorities.

Deputy District Education Of ficer Rubina Rauf said the school was one of 11 that had been declared`dangerous`by the education department. She said a report on the schools had been submitted to the local and district administrations for repair or reconstruction.

Asim Meer, the president of a local NGO, said providing schools with adequate facilities was very important, because a healthy learning environment is only possible if students and teachers were provided with essential facilities.

Mr Meer said that despite the funds set aside for infrastructural development in Punjab, many schools are still operating out of damaged buildings.

According to statistics from the School Education Department, over 800 school buildings in Punjab are `very dangerous` while 3,800 are partially damaged.