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Boarding over the holidays

Students outside of their classroom at the Mohripur Government Primary School - Zackary Canepari | Panos Pictures

On December 25 we plan to celebrate Quaid-e-azam day. It means “father of the nation” and commemorates the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of our country. At the school we are planning songs and tableaux to celebrate his life. We don’t celebrate Christmas, but we do teach the children the importance of international events and special days. In this era of globalisation it is important to guide them about what is going on in the rest of the world.

We’ve had quite a few Islamic religious holidays in the past few weeks – first for Eid and then for Muharram. During the Eid holidays, the school was shut for over a week. Many of the boarders did not go home, however. They stayed in the hostel. Most of them cannot afford the journey home and some mothers just don’t want them home because they don’t want to expose them to negativity and even abuse – especially in cases where the father is a drug addict.

The school arranged Eid celebrations on its premises and tried to create a homely atmosphere. I think the children enjoyed themselves. Some of the older ones even came to my house to visit for Eid. I spent the Eid holidays at home with my family. Eid is a festive holiday and we really look forward to it as it gives us the opportunity to get together as a family. Everyone is so busy these days with routine work. I, too, am so preoccupied with teaching at the school in the morning and then providing coaching to the children in the afternoon. So it was good to get a long break. I went to stay with my relatives in Rawalpindi for two days.

Lately, we have been doing a lot of cleaning up at the school. The seasons have changed and with the arrival of winter many of the children have fallen sick with flu and allergies. So we decided to clean up the school’s hostel rooms by washing all the carpets and airing the mattresses in the sun. We even whitewashed the walls and taught the children the importance of washing their hands with soap regularly.

For the sick children we provide medicine free of cost. We are also trying to improve our arrangements for the boarders. There is a lot of construction work going on – we are building the boarders a dining room where they can sit together and eat and then later use as a study room.

We will also be holding our parent teacher meetings soon and will focus on involving the parents of children whose grades are not improving. During these meetings we discuss the children’s problems and tell the parents to get their children to study. There is a tendency amongst the children to not take their first term that seriously and they don’t put in that much effort. They only get serious about their annual exams, which take place in March. So this is an important time of the year to get them to focus on their studies. This time round we want to involve the fathers instead of the mothers but since many of them work in factories during the day, we have to find a way to get them to come across to the school to see us. We want maximum participation.

As told to

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Maimoona Shahzadi






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