Afghan refugee children play in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan. They have been displaced by conflict and natural disasters.
Reuters/Athar Hussain, courtesy the Thomsom Reuters Foundation – AlertNet
Science and Crayons in Pakistani Camp
By David Tereshchuk*
May 28, 2012—International conferences meet to decide the fate of nations—like this month’s Chicago meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan—but the struggle of individual lives goes on, too often entirely unchanged.
At Jallozai, a refugee camp near Peshawar in Pakistan, though, improvement is at hand. The camp was set up during the current Afghan war mainly for displaced Pakistani populations. However, it includes Afghan refugees as well, who fled through the porous border between the countries.
UMCOR is supporting the camp—especially its mothers and children—with a program called Welcome to School, which is aimed at combating low levels of literacy found among the internally displaced people (IDP). Literacy levels are often lowest among girls who have been denied education after the age of 12, even when resources were available. Adult women also have been excluded from any substantial role in providing education.
But acting in cooperation with the relief organization Muslim Aid, UMCOR is hoping that will change. Welcome to School is already addressing specific needs of children who, for whatever reasons, have been deprived of education.
Muslim Aid’s initiative enables teacher training; the full involvement of the community—especially women—in the program; construction and repair of school buildings; and curricular activity that develops both academic and non-academic pursuits, such as sports.
Both primary and middle schools are involved, with programs that are characterized as formal and non-formal. Students can look forward over the next months, for instance, to a science exhibition as well as drawing and sports competitions.
In the words of Muslim Aid’s country director for Pakistan, Khobaib Vahedy, “The project not only provides the opportunity of traditional education but, also, adds colors to the life of IDP children.”
Such partnership between UMCOR and Muslim Aid reflects the deepening bonds of a relationship that was originally forged elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent, in Sri Lanka during 2006, where a combination of war and flood damage first brought the agencies together.
The two faith-centered organizations, each from a different tradition, are once again working together, for Jallozai Camp now, with the lives of individual families as the focus of their combined effort. Children’s learning, and the enjoyment of fresh color brought into their lives, lie at the heart of that shared dedication.
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can help to support families in Pakistan uprooted by natural disaster and war. If online, please use the drop-down menu to select Pakistan, or earmark your check if you are sending your donation by mail.
* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to umcor.org.