Expansion of a School in Kasur

Anam Zakaria, ADP’s Director, Programs & Outreach visited the grammar school established by the SOS Rural Support Program in Chabbar Chowk, District Kasur, Punjab. ADP is supporting the construction of six classrooms at this school which will benefit 250 studentsHere’s an account of her experience. 

As a student, I was one of the thousands of volunteers who flocked the SOS Orphanage on Ferozpur Road, Lahore, for internships. I spent two summers among the cheerful and chirpy students. As a fourteen-year-old myself, it was through them that I learnt what warmth and hospitality really meant. These children were more than enthusiastic to welcome you into their rooms, to show you the gardens and share any candies they may have gotten that morning from another volunteer. SOS had provided them with the only home they knew, it was the only family they had. Upon joining ADP, the SOS Chabbar Chowk School Project was one of the first projects that came my way and I was overjoyed to be given an opportunity to explore the organization’s work further through my first site visit.

On a pleasant March morning, I made my way to Kasur and was welcomed by developed roads that twisted and turned at medium sized roundabouts. But the smooth journey was meant to be halted right there. With a representative of SOS, we made our way to Chabbar Chowk, situated at a distance of 35 km from the main city. While the cab driver glared at me from the rear view mirror for not informing him of this route beforehand, I tried to duck so that my head wouldn’t hit the ceiling at every bump. It was a futile attempt, for the entirety of the way the car straddled left to right, making it difficult to think coherently, let alone converse with my guide. “Imagine, the teachers travel from Kasur City to the school every day on this road. Their dedication is remarkable,” his voice hiccuped. Remarkable indeed, I agreed.

On a narrow turning I saw the first glimpse of the school. A two-storey blue coloured building awaited our arrival. This was the “Chabbar Chowk Grammar School” which ADP had recently helped expand. I am told that before the expansion, over two classes were studying in one room and a 100 students were affected. Crammed together during both winters and summers, the teachers were unable to do justice to the students. The quality of education suffered, basic physical comforts were denied. A smiling and vibrant principal welcomed me inside and took me for a personal tour. The new classrooms were being availed as of last week and students were comfortably seated on chairs and desks that were donated by a local furniture shop. The teachers enthusiastically rushed up to me to say, “Thank you for your help. We can now teach far better. We can even conduct activities in class rather than dragging all the students outside.” I was informed that the floor downstairs had been reconstructed as well. “Before this, the students would sit on the ground to study. Whenever it would rain you could see the insects pouring out. The students always went home with dirty uniforms and often got unwell. The new construction has been a great relief for the students, teachers and parents!”

What is most fascinating for me is that during construction, the community members came together to offer monetary support to SOS. They used their savings to get additional work completed so that their children could study comfortably. According to them this school is a blessing. Prior to their intervention, there was no good educational facility for their children. The only school I had seen on our drive was a government run boys’ primary school. Inside I had found large underutilized grounds and a lack of teachers and students alike.  A parent who came to pick her daughter up from school told me that frustrated parents had begun to relocate to the main city while others would have to send their sons to far away villages for education. The girls, in such a scenario, could not go to school. Kasur has tribal differences; rival communities live side by side. To send one’s child to a rival’s village for education is unimaginable. To send girls off to study at a distance from their home is even more implausible. The result has been that females from the locality have largely been denied education. The SOS Chabbar Chowk Grammar school is the only girls’ school in the area. They now offer matriculation as well as private tutoring for Intermediate and Bachelors to females. This is their only source of progression and educational advancement. This is their refuge.

I prolonged my stay to speak to some more parents who were coming to enroll their children in the school for the upcoming term in April. Thanks to the expansion, SOS can now enroll 150 more students from the nearby area. These students have been on the waiting list for months. I shudder to think what their fate would be had the school not expanded. Would their girls have obtained education? 150 children may have been deprived of a bright future. 150 students can now rightly claim their right to education. A parent told me that they have come from far away to seek admission for their son. They heard that Chabbar Chowk provides the same quality of education that schools like Educators and DPS do- but at far more affordable rates. Until now there was no room for their child to study at the school. The ADP funded construction has changed that.