By Abdul Ali
Doubtlessly northern areas of Pakistan with its headquarter Gilgit, is a place where one will find melting glaciers, green meadows, brimming fruit orchards, gushing rivers and gurgling streams in summer season and snow-covered peaks and frozen lakes in winter. Such heavenly mountains and beautiful setting of natural resources entices travelers and tourists from around the globe to this picturesque scenes and sights.
But what the capital city-Gilgit Agency of formerly princely state can boast of today? What dot the city’s landscape? This past Sunday with the arrival of New Year, Ghulkin Youth Association arranged tour for housewives to know what more lies there to Gilgit. Why the Association chose this class? if you ask any housewife about her life, her complainant language resonates in tandem with what the poetess Maya Angelou has enlisted in her poetry.
I’ve got the children to tend- The clothes to mend- The floor to mop- The food to shop-Then the chicken to fry- The baby to dry- I got company to feed- The garden to weed- I’ve got shirts to press-The tots to dress,-The can to be cut-I gotta clean up this hut- Then see about the sick- And the cotton to pick.
Shine on me, sunshine- Rain on me, rain- Fall softly, dewdrops,-And cool my brow again.
Storm, blow me from here-With your fiercest wind- Let me float across the sky- ‘Til I can rest again.
Fall gently, snowflakes- Cover me with white- Cold icy kisses and- Let me rest tonight.
Sun, rain, curving sky-Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone- Star shine, moon glow- You’re all that I can call my own.
The purpose of tour of Gilgit was to have a day off from their inseparable chores, information-intended; apart from its usual aspect of entertainment. What this scribe gleaned from sites visited is shared with your readers and those prospective travelling enthusiasts, who might make these interesting sights much-visit-places on their itinerary.
The PDCN-Professional Development Center North, Gilgit is located in Konodass in a purpose-built building stretching over an area of 18.875 acre. It was established in 1999 as a joint venture between the Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan (AKES, P) and Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) with vision and mission to be a leading and widely accepted academic institution particularly in professional development for education, positively influencing the socio-economic conditions of the Gilgit-Baltistan in ways that promote peace, harmony and unity, valuing collaboration, supporting and embodying pluralism. It aims at imparting teaching best practices and capacity building of schools and teachers, management and leadership training to teachers from across Gilgit-Baltistan. It has trained over 11,630 teachers and introduced concept of early childhood development (ECD) to develop interest in education to increase literacy level in the region. It has been serving a regional resource center with well-equipped library and skilled manpower to conduct educational fora for Government, private and AKES school teachers, supporting a Women’s Forum for educators in the region and engaging in research activities. It collaborates with all other education systems (in Gilgit-Baltistan) to offer the course participants coming from various sponsoring agencies on cost-sharing basis to improve the quality of education through conduction of short courses and arranging workshops by the support of AKU. The Centre aims to be innovative and dynamic in offering indigenized programs that are academically excellent. It facilitates teachers and students through distribution of teaching-aid material, books and stationery and its ECD programme is currently being run in 124 schools across GB.
Such an innovative idea seems to be the panacea for maladies our state sponsored educational system is suffering from. The venue beams an omen for putting our mass education system on the right direction. To make it more widely acceptable to the public, the government needs to allocate funds to it so that public schooling is manned by state-of-the-art trained teachers; the schools which accommodate highest public population.
Apart from health sector, Aga Khan Development Network has an extensive network in education sector. Its first initiative was foundation of a hostel in 1960, which was inaugurated by major Mir Jamal Khan, the then mir of Hunza state. Later it was supplemented with a quality Aga Khan Higher Secondary School in 1998 located opposite to PDCN. Though there were in existence of 200 chains of school established by the grandfather of present hereditary spiritual leader of Ismiali Muslims. The sprawling play ground and unique infrastructure infuse and reinvigorate the entrants to set sky their limit in excellence in education. This school draws annually its taughts from diversify demography and has passing its entrance test as bench mark. The AKHSS has best faculty on its roaster who quite honestly dispense with their service for intellectual growth of pupils. The school has strength of with faculty members for class upto 12th graders.
The Karakorum International University (KIU) is located on conjunction of Gilgit and Hunza rivers under the shadow of parched hill. It is a federally chartered university, established in 2002 during the ruling of President General Pervez Musharraf. KIU has another campus in Skardu; capital city of Biltistan. It seeks to establish additional campuses, as it draws its students from far-flung mountainous districts depending upon availability of local resources and indigenous expertise. The walls built of stones and wooden carved works of doors give it perfect blend with its natural surroundings. Currently, it caters to the educational needs of over 3000 students, engaging over 100 faculty members with an equal number of administrative staffs in sixteen academic departments. Skardu Campus dispenses education in four disciplines-English, Computer Sciences, Business Management and Education. Over a decade sufficient number of grandaunts has passed out from this alma mater in multi-disciplinary fields, who couldn’t, otherwise, afford to go out of the town owing to economic or conservatism reason. It focuses in areas of knowledge enhancement through research and development which have strong relevance and high applicability to their immediate environment and needs. It conducts vocational trainings in technical and technology, which have great in demand in job market. The university aims to promote employable skilled human resources to emerging NGOs and developmental organizations. Over a decade since its foundation, it has leapt forward but on many fronts it needs giant leap like in case of research in fields having direct beneficial impact on area and its people. Comparing the university with other older varsities of the country will be unjustified; hopefully it would inch upward in future on HEC ranking as time goes by.
Another mega venue is newly under-construction Aga Khan Health Service, Gilgit over an area of 8.75 acre, which aims to ensure quality of primary health care to significantly improve health status by making availability of high quality medical care and institutional development like quality control in laboratory diagnosis, appropriate documentation in medical records, continuing education of nurses and doctors allied health professionals, network-wide strategies in hospital management. It is an all-encompassing medical center linked with e-health facility to its main university-hospital. AKHS already offers curative services in institutions ranging from dispensaries through health centers to full-service hospitals immunization; systematic prenatal care, aseptic deliveries, and oral rehydration therapy for diarrhoeal disease. Its approach to health services, primary health care and prevention under the aegis of Aga Khan University on planning, training, and resource development in health sector to reach vulnerable groups in society, especially child-bearing women and young children, with low-cost, proven medical technologies are giant leap in health sector. The total quality management methodology was introduced to AKHS in 1992 and remains an important activity. Nutritionists and child development studies have revealed that investment in early childhood lays critical foundations for a person’s entire life in human and financial terms, which have also been approved by advance research in neuroscience and genetics.
Such an expansion will not only heal the wounds but is also badly needed at a time and in a region where government medical facilities have been getting divided on sectarian lines. It strives to conjoin government health services in providing accessible medical care in modern, efficient, and cost-effective facilities. The health sector has been facing dearth of competent paramedics and skillful hospital technician to operate machines being used for diagnostic purposes. Lack of civic amenities, security situation, lawlessness and inclement winter weather make competent and committed professional people to make their way for greener pastures. Medical graduates with strong interest in his field leave for overseas for better financial return and bright career. The mass has to rely on the rudimentary left behind; not only in health sector but in other walks of life.
The picnic concluded with few advisory notes by noted religious scholar Muhammad Aslam to grand nannies and young housewives; never bear ill-will and grudges against other women folks, make your home a better nursery for children and grandchildren especially ensure provision of education to female children, exemplify yourselves to family children to be emulated and imitated, give them best lesson to learn for living an ideal life, how to be steadfast in adversarial circumstances and not compromising on sound ethical standards enjoined by Islam. Islam considers the family the corner stone of Islamic society and bases the atmosphere in the family on sacrifice, love, loyalty, and obedience.
The writer is an ACMA, media member of the Ghulkin Youth Association.