Umerkot: The first-ever cost-effective green school model has become a ray of hope for education, water, electricity, computer literacy and environment for the people of Thar Desert.
Sixty-eight percent geographical area of Sindh province is arid where a network of grid-connected electricity; road network and quality education facilities have been witnessed. The development cost in the arid areas of Pakistan, especially, Thar Desert is very high due to scattered settlements and remoteness. Moreover, it is a difficult terrain with thin sources of communication, limited resources and poor policies.
According to an engineer Taj Muhammad, it costs PKR 7 million to construct a two-room conventional school building along with compound wall, wash facility, electricity and furniture in an arid village of district Tharparkar or Umerkot.
Thar desert has been facing a lot of issues, but lack of information has been a major obstacle in the empowerment of indigenous people of Thar. According to Alif-Ailan Pakistan District Education Ranking 2015, Tharparkar district has been ranked on 113 of education in Pakistan. Status of basic facilities at school level are very poor; 25.88% schools have buildings, 3.89% are electrified, 17.8% schools have water facility, 36.95% have toilet facility and only 39.38% schools have boundary walls.
Jan Muhammad Samoo, a social activist working on education, while talking to News Lens Pakistan said, “Government has the same policy for all areas of the country. There are no specific guidelines regarding provision for infrastructure to meet the need of different climatic areas. Due to these hindrances it has been like a dream for people living in downtrodden areas to have quality education, especially computer literacy.”
Executive Director of Association for Water, Applied Education and Renewable Energy (AWARE) Ali Akbar Rahimoo said that the Thar Desert has a hot climate, high solar radiation and high wind velocity. He added that his organization conducted research on renewable energy sources in Thar and later on applied to create enabling environment in Government primary schools of Thar as a result of which they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government.
“Due to sandy tracks and far-flung areas, not having grid-connected electricity and resources it was difficult to provide a better environment to children in these schools,” Rahimoo said while talking to News Lens Pakistan.
Education Department has developed model schools, named Green Schools in 3 villages. According to him it is cost-effective and environment-friendly infrastructure /school building, powered by solar energy to run the fans and computers. Moreover, the students have been provided with rechargeable lights that can be charged during school timing and then can illuminate homes after sunset in the deep desert.
“Solar powered water pump has also been installed on dug well to haul water from the depth of 300 feet and it is provided to school for water, sanitation, hygiene and growing trees etc. This model has proved a ray of hope for marginalized people that their children can get quality education and pave way for better future,” he further said.
Manoj Genani, project officer of AWARE, while talking to News Lens Pakistan said, “Green school model is ten times cheaper than the typical school building model built by the government. This is environment-friendly and sustainable model to educate children in remote areas in Thar as well as other arid and semi-arid areas of Sindh, Balochistan and other provinces of Pakistan.”
He pointed out that government spends PKR 7 million to build a two-room school conventional building, but his organization has built a school with all the above mentioned facilities in less than PKR one million.
Sallah Dars, a villager Tar Dos village, told News Lens Pakistan, “Here, issues have been turned into opportunities (hot weather and high radiations of sunlight have been harnessed to produce electricity through solar photovoltaic panels). It is like a miracle for poor parents.”
He further said that their parents never dreamed that their children would get computer literacy in the Thar Desert, but now deep groundwater is easily accessible, and local material is used for constructing buildings.
Saudullah Dars, Primary School Teacher of Government Primary School Ilyas Dars Mohla Tar Dos , said that green school has all the facilities including flush lavatories, playground, library, computers, clean drinking water, solar system, electricity, school rooms and grounds have also been used for community activities and social meetings. Students get free textbooks and help teachers in teaching.
There are regular co-curricular activities including competitions among students and games. Regular parent teachers meetings are held. There is no concept of corporal physical punishment. There are more girls students than boys. All households have been given water supply line, removing the burden of children having to collect and fetch water.
Student Nehal Dars told News Lens Pakistan that the Government Primary School Ilyas Dars Mohla Tar Dos was established in 2008, but they used to study while sitting on the ground, as there was no building and furniture. Enrollment was 48 at that time which has now grown to be around 131.
Saeeda, a student, said that they were unable to buy colors and pencils to draw sketches, as their parents were poor. Now on the computer they can draw any sketch and all type of colors are there. Having solar light and computer in Thar Desert is a blessing for them.