Wednesday, 15 October 2014

12th October Ghulam Rasool School

We left early and stopped to picnic by the river. Afghans are experts at picnics and soon carpets and cushions were laid out on the grassy banks of the Korcha River. Clear air, clear skies, clear water and all framed by the Hindu Kush. It is so very beautiful here and it is a life so close to nature.

Fishermen and boys have rods out for trout, men crouch behind walls with nets ready to spring up and catch sparrows, every ounce of land is being harvested or ploughed, dung is being dried out on house walls to dry for use as firewood and the villages are carved from the earth with their baked mud bricks and adobe walls.

We stop off at a school which used to be used as a hospital by Masood. It has caves behind it with wooden doors barring entry, where supplies used to be hidden in times of conflict. The building is falling down and there are holes in the roof and broken down walls. This is the school and it houses 250 children.

Further down the valley is a community based school with 2 classes which started 3 years ago and is supported by AC. The pupils come from the very poor village of Pul Mastan, alongside the river. They belong to a Tribe called the Goger who are a special minority group who moved 100 years ago from Gujarat in Pakistan. They own no land and graze their animals wherever they can find pastures.

Before we reach the road back to Taloqan, we drop down off road in huge clouds of dust, to head towards Ghulam Rasool Shaheed School. This school was the focus of our Christmas fundraising campaign. National Geographic gave us $80,000 to use as a matching fund to build the school.  We raised the money in just 5 weeks thanks to the tremendous response of donors. The community is very remote and has been trying to get help to build a school for over 10 years, but due to its very remote location, no NGO has been able to help. It is a project very close to my heart as when I saw the way the children were studying in such atrocious conditions, and the determination of both them and the community, I was so determined myself to find a way to support. Now as we approach the place of the old school, having travelled across river beds and impossible rutted tracks... and even  stopping along the way to help right a vehicle which was on its side, we see the new school construction, almost complete.

In front of the building and climbing all the way up the hillside towards us  are rows of school children and lines of village elders. It is a great mark of respect when the elders come to meet us and at every school in Worsaj this visit, they have been there. 

Every child has a garland of flowers, so I am soon unable to see over the top of them all, and they also throw bagfuls of glitter and there is a new hazard ... snow shakers - so it is like arriving in a storm. 

Then all the children run down to the new building, which is still under construction and pack the area in front of the school, perching on piles of sand and rock.

I have to make a speech and then the headmaster thanks us and says we will always be in the hearts of the people.Finally the District Education officer thanks us for having the courage to come so far from our homes and to such a remote area to support these people.  The construction is a masterpiece and I simply cannot imagine how they managed to get the machinery here. They are building a massive flood wall and we watch as the men load great rocks on to each other’s backs and haul them on to the half built wall.

We all come in to one classroom and sit on huge red carpets. There are 30 elders and us. Huge plates of rice and meat are served to everyone and we exchange conversation with these splendid people, learning about the time the Russians came, how the mountains protected them from the Taliban and the problems finding work for their young people.

We say our goodbyes feeling emotional and inspired.

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