Muzaffarabad: Sixteen new primary schools were opened at a ceremony in Muzaffarabad today as part of an ambitious programme to construct almost 700 schools following the devastating 2005 earthquake.
UNICEF constructed the 16 schools in Muzaffarabad and Bagh Districts with significant financial support from the European Union, and in support of the Government of Pakistan’s “Build Back Better” programme.
The new schools are beautiful, modern structures that are resistant to earthquakes and designed with child-friendly features. They include a minimum space for each student in line with international standards; school furniture and educational materials; separate toilets for girls and boys; solid boundary walls; and ramps and railings that facilitate access for physically-challenged children. UNICEF and its NGO partners – Bulandi and ABES – has also engaged with teachers, mothers’ support groups and school management committees to ensure community participation.
UNICEF plans to build 691 permanent and pre-fabricated schools in earthquake-affected areas, with the support of the European Union and other donors. These will benefit around 65,000 children. Of the more than 560 schools constructed to date, 84 permanent and 52 pre-fabricated schools have been completed with the financial contribution of the European Union.
European Union Ambassador, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, was among the special guests at an inauguration ceremony for all the new schools held at the Government Girls Primary School Sherwan in Muzaffarabad District. Also among those attending were the Director of Public Instruction, Rakhshanda Nadeen, along with the Secretary-Director General of the State Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, Liaqat Hussain, and UNICEF Deputy Representative Karen Allen. School principals along with staff, parents and students of Sherwan School joined in the celebrations.
Ambassador Wigemark said: “This is the year of education in Pakistan, which is a priority for the European Union, especially primary education. Education is indeed the basis for a well-functioning and economically striving community and society, for girls and boys in an equally important way.”
Ms Allen said that the school reconstruction programme could not have taken place without the invaluable support of the European Union and other major donors.
“It is extremely pleasing to be able to make a real, tangible difference in children’s lives. The construction of these modern school facilities is a great step forward. The schools, together with the child-friendly schooling approach, will allow tens of thousands of children to exercise their right to an education and give their young minds the opportunity to grow and develop. That is the real treasure we are celebrating.”
For more information, contact:
A. Sami Malik
UNICEF Pakistan Country Office
90 Margalla Road, F8/2, Islamabad
Tel: +92 51 2097811 and +92 51 2097799