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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Girls' School in the Village Khane, Baltistan, Pakistan

As I wrote in the previous post, since the website isn't up yet, I'm going to include a few posts that detail more about the GEI projects that we are currently working on.

Heidi and I went on a climbing expedition to Pakistan in 2006. We spent 10 days in the village Khane in the Hushe Valley. We spent a significant amount of time with the villagers, visiting the girls’ and boys’ schools in the village and discovering that the girls’ school was in deplorable condition.

The small building was in general disrepair and is about half the sizes of the boy’s school, despite the fact that there are equal numbers of girls in the village. Surrounding the boys’ school is a concrete wall with glass shards on top that keep vandals out. The girls’ school has no such wall, and subsequently villagers frequently hop the fence to go to the bathroom in the schoolyard. Heidi and I found piles of feces littered around the yard. The boys’ school also has an extensive garden, while the girls’ school has some dilapidated plots with a few scraggly flowers growing.

Although the overall condition of the school building was extremely poor, the school supplies were worse off. All books were ripped and stained and had obviously been used over and over again for years. Some of the pages were so ruined that girls had to share materials. Additionally, many of the poorer students would not have pencils or paper were it not for the generosity of some of the “wealthier” villagers. Finally, according to the villagers, the government won’t pay for a teacher for the girls’ school and subsequently the village pays a paltry sum to one poorly educated teenager who works with the girls. “She is like a baby sitter,” said one village mother, Zulie.

After being raised in a society that provides free education and supplies to all children, Heidi and I were shocked at the lack of qualified staff and materials for the girls in the village. It’s difficult to describe the glaring differences between what Americans have access to versus what the children in the Northern Areas of Pakistan have access to. Only in early 2006 did Khane get electricity; most homes don’t have furniture; most don’t have ovens or stoves, and the women cook over open fires, utilizing yak dung for fuel; few homes have plumbing; running water has only recently been introduced to the village; and, of course, few villages have access to medical services. The children have no playgrounds to speak of, no access to computers, and no access to books other than their outdated and ruined schoolbooks. They don’t even have toys! The poorest child in America has stuffed animals, games, and other things to play with, while these Pakistanis have nothing except a few marbles and balls.

On the other hand, the children in Khane have something that American children often don’t have. They have a tight-knit community, where the children all watch out for each other. When one baby cries, she is passed around from child to child; girls as young as five will carry around a one-year-old and rock her until she stops crying. And, best of all, these children are generally happy; they smile often and the sounds of their laughter and chattering can be heard constantly throughout the day.

8 comments:

khapulu said...

Hello guys.
How are you? I am 'Ali' from baltistan where you guys already been there. In the future if you guys have plan to go back there, I can assist you more about the area. I have no wards for you that you doing.
My e-mail address is 'baltistani2004@hotmail.com' but I live in the 'USA' state of 'Maryland' please stay in contact. thanks

Lizzy Scully said...

Hi Ali, I'm so sorry I did not respond to this post sooner! I just figured out a few days ago that people are actually posting responses to our blog entries. We will definitely keep in touch. In the meantime, if you are familiar with any Pakistani nonprofit organizations that work specifically with primary and secondary education for children, please let us know. Thanks!
--The GEI staff

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kas_chat said...

Hello. I am in Brisbane, Australia. I have recently become interested in Baltistan. Can you tell us how this project is going? Karen

kas_chat said...

Hello. I am in Brisbane, Australia. Could someone please let us know how this project for girls education, health and welfare is going in Baltistan? Karen

Jessica Santangelo said...

Hey, Dr. Greg Mortenson originally planned to build a school in Khane, but he built it in Korphe instead

Now the media attention is messing him up and his organization.

Do you think this is karmic justice for him failing to honor his promise to Khane?

Lizzy Scully said...

Hi Jessica, I don't think so. We also tried very hard to work in Khane, but found the villagers to be too difficult to work with. Unfortunately, there were various contingents that had different ideas about how to run programs. As well, they were unwilling to work with a legal bank or an already-established non-profit organization. It was a great disappointment, but I understand why Greg ended up not working there.
-Lizzy

Lala Balti said...

Hello all, thats a great project you guys have been doing.i am from Khane but living in USA.if you guys need to know anything about Baltistan please feel free to ask me.My email ID is titan09-12@hotmail.com

Have a wonderful night/day.
Sincerely Imtiaz Balti from America