Educational future of thousands of flood-displaced children uncertain

The unprecedented floods have not only wrecked havoc to the civic infrastructure, but also dealt a severe blow to the education system in Sindh, as a large number of school buildings, particularly in the Katcha area have collapsed or damaged beyond repair after submerging in floodwater.

Though the official figures of affected educational institutions are yet to come, it is feared that hundreds of schools in the flood-hit towns and villages have been affected.

According to the education department’s statistics, prior to floods over 26,900 private and public schools had been operating in 23 districts of the province, with 14,805 of them in Karachi, 1,821 in Hyderabad and 5,444 in other parts of the province.

The Sindh government had taken precautionary measures following the flood threat including the closure of schools in the Katcha (riverside) area, which was declared as the most threatened area. The furniture and equipments of these schools was shifted to safer places in vulnerable districts.

The Sindh government education and literacy department had directed the parents of students to send their children to nearby schools in safer areas so that they could continue their education and in this regard, headmasters of these schools were ordered to accept the students of Katcha area and give them education, temporarily.

However, the majority of population belonging to the poor class has migrated to the relief camps in order to save their lives, where there were no adequate arrangements of education for their children.

Meanwhile, the majority of schools in the Pacca areas have been handed over to district administrations for setting up relief camps for the flood-affected people, while EDOs Education of Kandhkot-Kashmore, Ghotki, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Khairpur, Naushehro Feroze and Dadu asked to set up control rooms in their respective district headquarters.

According to Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) assessment, the flood has directly affected about 20 districts of the province and 2.5 to 2.6 million people, out of which some 700,000 people have been affected in the underdeveloped areas only.

Abdullah, a flood-affected student staying at the flood relief camp set up in Government College of Technology in SITE, said he and his friends knew nothing about their academic future, adding that they along their families were living in miserable conditions at the camp. “All of us want to get education. We miss our school and teachers but it seems impossible that we will be able to continue our studies as our villages and schools are inundated,” he said.

Some teenage students, hailing from Jacobabad district, at the relief camp said they left their schools and houses unwillingly under the threat of the flood.

Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association (SPLA) General Secretary Prof Iftikhar Aazmi said that all educational institutes of the province except that of Karachi and Hyderabad have been disturbed due to the floods. Many colleges in Sukkur and other regions have been converted into relief camps while the connection with many colleges including Government Degree College Phul has been lost.

“The SPLA will soon meet Sindh Education Secretary to discuss measures for the resettlement of the affected educational institutions and student,” he added.

All Private Schools Management Association Sindh President Khalid Ali Shah said the restoration of the educational system would take at least two years. There is a threat that thousands of students in the province, whose families have lost everything, would not continue their education.

“Fortunately, the majority of private secondary schools have remained safe as floods hit a greater part of the countryside having hardly any private schools,” Shah said

Sources in the office of Co-coordinator to the Sindh Reform Support Unit Chief said that there was no data on the damages sustained by the education sector in Sindh. Assessment has not started yet, they said, adding that a Crises Cell has been formed to access the losses and for floating recommendations to restore the education process for flood-affected students.

Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq, who was on a visit to interior Sindh, could not be reached for comments.