At the Tanjai Cheena school in northwest Pakistan, students
squeeze into makeshift classrooms where plastic tarps serve as
walls and electricity is sparse, as a surging population
overstretches the countrys fragile education system.
Sandwiched behind desks like sardines, students repeat words
learned in Pashto and English during an anatomy lesson: Guta is
finger, laas is hand.
At the Tanjai Cheena school in
northwest Pakistan students squeeze into makeshift classrooms where
plastic tarps serve as walls and electricity is sparse. (AFP)
Two teachers rotate between four classrooms at the school, which
lacks even the most basic amenities, including toilets.
The girls usually go to my house and the boys to the bushes,
principal Mohammad Bashir Khan, who has worked at the school in the
picturesque Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for 19
With birth control and family planning virtually unheard of in this
ultraconservative region, the ill-equipped public school system has
not kept up with population growth.
In 1984, when my father started the school, there were 20 to 25
kids. Now they are more than 140, Khan said.
Pakistan sits on a demographic time bomb after years of exponential
growth and high fertility rates resulted in a population of 207
million two-thirds of whom are under the age of 30.
And each year the country gains three to four million more people,
overburdening public services from schools to hospitals.
At the Malok Abad primary school in the town of Mingora, 700 boys
share six classrooms, many of which remain damaged from a 2005
earthquake with clumps of plaster still falling from their
The youngest students study in the courtyard sitting on the ground,
while others are forced to gather on the roof under the baking
We are doing our best. But those kids are neglected by the system,
teacher Inamullah Munir said.
On the girls side, the situation is even more dire with the
smallest classes hosting up to 135 students packed into a space
measuring about 20 square meters.
This is emergency education, said Faisal Khalid, a local director
at the education department in Swat.
The stakes are high in a country where education has long been
neglected and received little in...