15th September 2014
On the day trip from Khaplu to the Hushe Valley we were lucky enough to be able to visit the local school in Baleygon sponsored by Wild Frontiers.
The weather was bright and sunny and the journey took us through a series of rural villages in the process of harvesting their wheat. There was lots of activity and smiles and greetings along the way as the number of tourists to this area has dwindled significantly. The village has a population of around 400 people all involved in agriculture and is more or less self-sufficient.
Our entry to Baleygon village was over a traditional wooden bridge into the village. The Chief of the village and Imam were there to meet us and word soon spread that there was a group of foreigners approaching. The school itself has three classrooms and is small in view of the fact that there are 85 children attending the school – 45 boys and 40 girls. However, the classrooms have only been built very recently, along with a toilet block. It is a primary and junior school combined and it was very evident that some of the older children were in charge of their younger siblings, who were sat on their laps.
Subjects covered at the school are Urdu, English, Maths and Social Studies. There are only two teachers at the school – one appointed by the Government and another paid for by Wild Frontiers. The value of education is increasing although literacy rates in the traditional villages of Pakistan are still very low. Many of the girls will be married by the age of 14 and boys by 16 and they will be expected to work on the land from a young age to contribute to the family ‘business’. There is a high school in the next village which some of the children can attend, although for many, especially the girls, this basic level of education is all that they are likely to receive.
On entry to the classrooms the children were really excited to see us and there was a massive roar. They were suspicious at first, but also inquisitive; they soon relaxed and started practising their English. Jerry and Jeremy Thompson from the States had very kindly brought a huge bag of books and pens to hand out to the children, and the rest of the clients had also brought out some pens, footballs and cricket bats to donate. These items were handed out amongst the children who were as fascinated by these gifts as much as they were by the individuals handing them out. Equipment in the school is limited to some desks and the standard curriculum books which are shared by the children.
All of the children proudly wear their school uniforms and are clearly very happy to be able to attend the school. As a sign of their thanks the children were invited to give us a reading from their books and we were also given a couple of renditions of the national anthem. They were so proud that all of them wanted to show us what they had learnt and join in. We took some photos and thanked the teacher and children for their warm hospitality. It was a great experience on both sides and the enthusiasm and smiling faces of the children will be fondly remembered as one of the highlights of my visit to Pakistan.