Negligence: Gilgit-Baltistan’s historical school crumbling
October 10, 2011 Leave a comment
The structure of the grand institution is yet to be reconstructed to meet standards of a modern college in Gilgit (top); A view of Number 1 School’s original building (right). PHOTO: SHABBIR MIR
GILGIT (ET): A historical educational institute in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is decaying due to negliience of the concerned authorities, belying the government’s claims of improving education in the country. Built nearly 120 years ago, High School No 1, located in the heart of Gilgit city, is regarded as the Aligarh University of G-B by historians.
The school has had hosts of problems over the years but no measures were taken to improve or preserve this national heritage that has churned out some of G-B’s rulers for decades. Built in 1893 on the orders of Colonel Algernon Durand, a British political agent, the school made little progress regarding infrastructure. Later, the Maharaja of Kashmir was reluctant to invest money in the school, as he felt that there was no point in trying to educate people from such a far-flung and mountain-locked region.
“This is akin to Aligarh University for us,” said Sherbaz Barcha, a historian.” I believe the contribution of the school is unprecedented in the history of G-B,” he added.
The original building no longer exists today, as it was demolished for security reasons and to meet modern day requirements instead of being renovated, depriving the region of a legacy. No 1 school – as it is known today – has produced hundreds of renowned figures of the region, some of whom later ruled the region for years. Another historian, Professor Usman, pointed out that Lt Colonel (retd) Ahsan, the first person from the region to be a commissioned officer in the Indian Army, studied at this institution.
A board suspended inside the principal’s office shows Hashmatullah Khan as the first principal of the school in 1950 and ends with the name of the current principal, Shahbaz Khan.
Khan told The Express Tribune that the incomplete building is one of the main factors hindering the pace and quality of education in the school.
The school doesn’t have a dispensary for first aid, nor does it have a water filtration plant on the premises. The boundary wall is not sufficient to protect students during law and order situations. Admissions In-charge Jehangir Khan said the laboratories of the physics, chemistry and biology departments have been nonfunctional after construction was halted by contractors in 2003.
“The teachers and students are good but space is a problem,” he said, adding that the remaining construction was never completed as the government cited reasons such as funding gaps.
Spread over nearly 11,600 square metres, the school has 35 rooms with more than 465 students currently enrolled. Most of the classrooms have rickety furniture. The school has a library but no librarian. “We have over 3,000 books in our library, but no one to tend to them,” said Masroor Wali, another senior teacher, who is also a member of the school management committee.
“The school should have been upgraded to higher secondary by now,” the principal said. Being a government school, education is free for all, but this also means that, “The management doesn’t have any funds available to meet additional requirements,” he added.
Education Secretary Hadi Hussain said that as per the government system, the school was undertaking its activities, while adding that the Public Works Department had blacklisted various contractors, who then left the building incomplete. He added that they would extend all possible support to this historic institution to keep it operational.