1st smart container school installed in KP Province

By Zahir Shah

Workers in Lakki Marwat District finish the district's first container school in August. [Zahir Shah]

Workers in Lakki Marwat District finish the district's first container school in August. [Zahir Shah]

PESHAWAR -- Low-cost container schools are coming to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and revolutionise education, provincial officials are saying.

The effort to install the innovative "smart" schools is meant to provide education in remote parts of the province, so that children can envision options other than extremism and terrorism.

The first such school opened in Lakki Marwat District August 17.

The smart schools are coming "to areas where schools were damaged or destroyed by militancy, floods and earthquakes", KP Education Minister Muhammad Atif Khan told Pakistan Forward.

About 200 such schools are coming to militancy- and calamity-stricken areas in coming months, KP officials say.

Solar energy and modern conveniences

The Lakki Marwat container school includes nine containers and space for about 180 pupils. A security guard will protect the school.

The container relies on solar energy to power its air conditioning and has a bio-metric system for verifying children's attendance.

Container schools will be a cost-effective way of attracting children in remote or troubled areas to education, educators say.

"Schools equipped with solar power will have a structural life of 40 years," Atif said. He recently inspected the new school in Lakki Marwat.

The container schools are faster to build than conventional brick-and-mortar schools, he said.

Serving hard-hit areas

KP "has recruited about 40,000 teachers and is likely to induct 15,000 more to meet school needs" province-wide, Atif said, adding that "specially trained teachers" would work in the smart schools.

The smart schools are an excellent option for areas where militants destroyed schools or where schools were never available in the first place, Peshawar-based development specialist Qamar Naseem told Pakistan Forward.

Parents in such areas often have no choice except seminaries, which could be promoting intolerance, Naseem said.

"Parents ... know that education is the only key to success," Naseem said. In some cases, children have attended class in the rubble of a bombed school, he said.

Swat showed what militants want

During militants' reign of terror in the Swat Valley of 2007 to 2009 -- which ended only after troops drove out them out -- the militants destroyed more than 400 schools, Nelum Rahim, chief of the Shirkatgah women's rights NGO in Swat, told Pakistan Forward.

Their intention was to keep children ignorant, especially girls, Swat Valley schoolteacher Tabbassum Gul told Pakistan Forward.

Container schools could begin providing education to deprived children in Swat much faster than brick-and-mortar schools, which take a long time to rebuild, she said.

Smart schools can help smash extremism and terrorism in troubled areas like Swat, Malakand Division and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Nelum Rahim said.

The container schools are useful in all weather conditions and provide a refuge from the toxic message of extremists, Haji Abdul Rahim, president of the Lakki Marwat Primary School Teachers' Association.

Terrorists blew up many schools in Lakki Marwat in past years too, he said.

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