Students of the community school in Sector E-13 of Islamabad taking their lessons under a tree.
Students of the community school in Sector E-13 of Islamabad taking their lessons under a tree. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Teachers and students of a Basic Education Community School in Islamabad’s Sector E-13 have drawn the attention of authorities towards the absence of basic facilities like a building, toilet, drinking water, playground, library and sitting desks necessary for wholesome education and required to run a school.

With winter setting in, it is becoming quite a challenge to hold classes in the open, particularly when it is cloudy or raining.

Set up in a mouza (a small settlement) in the suburbs of Islamabad back in 1998 as a one-teacher school, the Basic Education Community School Bhaikar Fateh Bakhsh is the only educational institute in the locality where children can get free education from Grade I to Grade V.

A project of the National Education Foundation (NEF) the ‘One Teacher, One School’ kicked off with 25 children in 1998 but soon grew. Today, there are four teachers — two male and two female — while the number of students has also grown to 130, including 80 boys and 50 girls.

Not only are the conditions far from ideal as the classes are held under a tree, the teachers here too are underpaid and receive a paltry sum of PKR8,000 (Dh172.50} a month and that amount too is paid after waiting for months.

248 community schools in Islamabad

There are 248 such community schools in the limits of the Islamabad Capital Territory Authority (ICTA). The purpose was to offer free education and books to children of the working and labour classes who cannot afford school fees or books. Here both are free.

With the passage of time, it is now becoming quite a challenge to keep these schools running. Besides Tanveer Ahmed, three other teachers, Muhammad Suleman, Shamim Akhtar and Shumaila Bibi are also devoting their time and energies for the community’s education and welfare.

They are the locals who after completing their degrees decided to become teachers. However, they could never have imagined that they would have to wait for their salaries for months and their job agreement would exclude benefits like health insurance, casual leave or loans etc.

Local teachers for local students

“We are teaching here only because we belong to this Mouza and we don’t have to travel long distances for livelihood,” said Shamim Akhtar.

She hcalled for timely payment of and increase in salaries. Provision of desks for pupils as they have to sit on mats in the cold days was also one of their demands. Shortages and absence of facilities is creating a host of problems.

The community schools are yet to upgrade themselves in terms of salaries and facilities. At the 13,000 schools all over the country, one million children receive primary level education. The students are mostly children of the poor local communities, including Afghan refugees.

The Bhaikar Fateh Bakhsh basic education community school is registered with the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) and its students appear for the 5th grade exam along with children of the regular schools and they compete with them.

The teachers of the school called for a raise in their salaries as per the government’s policy of minimum wages besides provision of other facilities.