Forward-Looking Villages of Pakistan
By Dr Farhana Mohamed
Photos Courtesy: Dawn & MGYW’s Haripur Project Coordinator
According to a recent report published in the Dawn newspaper and broadcasted on Geo TV, in the Mangar Kota village of Swat in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province of Pakistan some parents have taken the courage and are sending their daughters to study in boys’ middle and primary schools – something quite progressive for one of the most conservative regions of Pakistan.
Parents faced the problem because the closest middle school for girls was over six miles so their daughters had no choice but to quit their education after primary school. The girls’ families could not afford a sturdy vehicle for transportation on the unpaved dirt terrain and the long distance prevented the girls to walk to school.
To change this pattern, eight girls are now studying in a boys’ middle school. The school has only one room and one teacher; since there are no chairs, the girls have to sit on the floor which poses no problem. Not to mention, the only primary school for girls in the village has also one teacher and one room. Compared to this the boys’ primary school is relatively better staffed with four teachers, so 54 girls are now studying with boys in the primary school.
Four years ago, Pakistani American Forum-Merit Grants for Young Women (MGYW) received a request from parents residing in two villages of Haripur District in the KPK province for facilitating secondary education of their daughters due to lack of a middle school in their villages. The MGYW Board resolved the problem by sponsoring the transportation expenses of these girls from their villages to Bagra Government Girls High School in Haripur located at a distance of five to six miles. Currently, 80 girls are transported daily via Suzuki vans from Ratta Banna and Karwala Villages to the Bagra High School.
This project was made possible by collaboration with Safeer Ahmed, a respectable community leader in Haripur; Riaz Khan, CEO of MicroTrends; and MGYW’s generous donors. MGYW has also hired a local female Project Coordinator, who routinely visits the Bagra High School and villages to check on the academic progress of students enrolled in the program. Safeer Ahmed and the Project Coordinator are responsible for recruiting qualified students, collecting completed annual forms, academic progress reports, preparing lists, and ensuring safe transportation of girls. In addition, MGYW has arranged a summer camp for the girls to give them a heads up in key subjects such as mathematics, science, English, and Urdu. In the near future, MGYW is planning to expand this project as several neighboring villages are also keenly interested in sending their daughters to the Bagra High School. The most compelling and encouraging outcome in these remote conservative villages is that in most cases fathers are the torchbearers: “We want our girls educated,” says one father.
For more information about MGYW and to donate, please visit MGYW’s website ( www.mgyw.org ) and Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/PAFMGYW).