Crisis Situation: Broghil Valley deprived of educational opportunities
Brogil is a remote, impoverished, and often neglected valley located in Upper Yarkhun Valley of Chitral district, sharing direct borders with the Wakhan district of Afghanistan. Inhabited by a small and sparsely distributed population, majority of them Wakhi speakers, the valley has often found itself at the margins of the society, deprived of even the most basic amenities of life.
Although impoverished and maginalized, the locals of Broghil Valley are fully aware of the importance of educating their younger generations. It is in this spirit that the community of Broghil and Upper Yarkhun initiated the region’s first school, a community based school system, in 2000.
It was for the first time that three primary-level, Community Based Schools (CBS) were established in the area, with funding providing by European Union. Aga Khan Education Service Pakistan (AKES,P) was the implementing parnter of these schools.
By 2005, due to advoacy of the locals, a Middle School was established in Chilmarabad village, with the support of Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan. The School Management Committee collected Rs 125,000 as community share and got Rs.5 lac from AKESP, to operationalize and run the school. The total amount, Rs.625000 per school, was deposited in banks and the profit earned from it has been the only financial resource available with the community to to pay teahers’ salaries. Since this meager profit amount is not even enough to cover the salary of even a single teacher, the students had to pay additional tuition fee to cover the management and operatoins costs.
In 2012, an international NGO, named Centre Asia Institute (CAI) took over the schools’ management, provided extra teachers, and paid salaries to all schools and further constructed buildings for High level (Grad 10) Community Based School at Chilmarabad.
People in Broghil valley are faced with myriad social and economic issues, many living below poverty line, dependent on subsistence animal farming.
CAI-Gilgit also constructed additional Primary Schools at Garil, Broghil, Kishmanja Broghil, Gararum Upper Yarkhun, Rokut VC Broghil and a degree college at Yarkhun Lasht. CAI-G was providing all the schools management costs while also providing teachers trainings during winter and summer vacations at Gilgit and Chitral. The organization was providing free uniforms and text books to each student at all schools. Due to CAI’s intervention in Broghil, the literacy ratio increased rapidly and the burden on local community and SMCs were reduced significantly.
In 2019, the operations of Central Asia Institute (CAI) were wrapped up after Pakistan’s federal governemnt banned the organization. The community did not have any option other than knocking on the doors of the Aga Khan Education Service and the Chitral Education Department, seeking help to keep the schools operational, and protect the future of the children.
Meanwhile, an NGO called Moaven Foundation came forward to provide all the required financial and technical supports to these community owned schools. The Maven Foundation even provided three months’ salaries to all teaching staffs and committed to keep their support per the previous model of CAI.
In 2020, the regional management of AKES, P met the community and assured the hopeful locals that the schools will be taken over and converted into centers of quality learning.
The AKES’P regional team of Chitral paid visit to each school, held meetings with School management committees and signed a one-year agreement initially providing them them same support, as was provided by CAI-G They won the trust of the locals by committing to hire new staff and improve the overall quality of the schools. After one year, the contract was extended, without making any tangible changes, per their promises.
The Community, at large, and the SMCs sent several written resolutions to the Regional Council, Local Council and AKES’P management to implement AKES’P full fledge support per their commitment, to no avail.
Three years have passed since CAI-G’s operations were banned, but AKES has failed to improve salaries, hire new staff or improve the quality of education. The teachers are not being provided high quality training. The staff continue to serve getting starvation wages, much below the national minimum wages announced by the current government.
One of CAI-G constructed Primary School at Kishmanja Broghil was taken by Government Education department of KP and it has now been upgraded into a government primary school. It is the only government supported school in the region.
Schools in Broghil have been shut since March due to a strike by teachers, who are demanding better perks
Dissatisfied with the managment of AKES,P< the teachers have gone on strike since March, demanding better salaries. Some teachers have stopped providing services in the valley due to lakc of proper salaries and structured employment. The schools, thus, have been shut for almost three months now.
The community’s efforts to raise the issue through the Regonal and Local Councils and the AKES,P management have yeilded no results. AKES, P, so far, has hired a “valley coordinator” and a “master trainer” to facilitate teaching at the schools, but the locals are not satisfied.
Who will listen to the plight to a few hundred households who do not have any political vote bank, or patronage of the region’s elite? Why is no action not being taken to alleviate the sufferings fo the 350 plus students who have not been able to go to schools since March?
The local community has made the following demands and recommendations:
- AKES’P should take over management responsibilities of each school and hire better teaching staffs to ensure their quality education.
- AKES’P should fulfil its commitment of convert CBS High School Chilmarabad, Broghil into a regular AKESP School, charging fee from the community as per policy
- Salary demands of the teachers be addressed on urgent basis, depending on qualification, expertise and experience
- AKES’P should arrange tests and exams in each school per their own standards to raise the bar.
- Take action to provide ECD education to the children
- Provide frequent and better quality trainings to the faculties for ensuring quality
“If AKES’P does not solve the issues as soon as possible, then we are afraid that these schools will remain close forever and the community will get back to Dark Age once again deprived from access to basic education”, said Umar Rafi, Chairman of Village Council, Broghil. He acknowledged that AKDN organizations have been investing huge budget in the valley for other development works under the seven valleys programme of national council, but the needs of the community are immense and more robust action is needed, Rafi added.