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Pakistan: Newsline

‘Catch-up’ kids saved from permanent school expulsion

©UNICEF/ HQ06-0302/ Pirozzi
Student at a school set up in a camp for people displaced by the earthquake in Pakistan.

By Dana Palade and John Schenk - World Vision Pakistan and MEERO

6 October 2006 - One hundred and forty teenagers recently resumed school after World Vision-sponsored “catch up” classes saved them from being permanently expelled from the education system.

The school system recommended their expulsion after they displayed aggressive behavior and performed poorly in the year following the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that devastated northern Pakistan on 8 October 2005.

“Our generation is not hopeless,” said a passionate 16-year-old girl quoting the Pakistani poet, Allama Iqbal to express her enthusiasm about her renewed educational career. She said she wants to become a pilot. “We do as much as boys can, or even more.”

“These children have been saved from early marriage for the girls and the boys lining up for menial jobs at construction sites,” said World Vision’s manager of the children in crisis project. “Education means the difference between this and young people who now have the chance to access further schooling and ultimately saleable job skills.”

“Many of these young people participated in the initial rescue operations. They helped dig out dead relatives, neighbors and classmates, to clear the rubble of what had been their homes and schools. Their bad behavior was a direct result of what they suffered after the quake, “the manager continued to say.

Staff became aware of the intended expulsions last June when they were invited to year-end school ceremonies. They intervened and asked school officials for the chance to bring the students up to academic standards as well as work on their disruptive attitudes.

The students studied two hours a day and spent another two hours daily in psychosocial exercises built around creative and recreational activities plus one-on-one discussions with child protection officers.

The programme was built on existing staff; GIK schools supplies and play materials from the 17 existing child friendly spaces (CFSs). No additional costs were entailed. Sixty girls attended the classes.

“The most remarkable changes in behavior were team work among the boys and an opening up among the girls in which they felt freedom to express themselves,” said World Vision’s manager.

One girl, 17, said she wants to become a doctor. She said her village is poor and has no medical care. “All I want to be is a good human being,” she said, “and if this is all that comes out of these classes that is fine by me.”


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