PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) authorities recently inaugurated the Baba Guru Nanak School of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) to support the development of the Sikh community in Peshawar.
The move, which happened on November 15, represents an effort to integrate minorities into the Pakistani mainstream, one made possible by the successful campaign beginning in 2014 against extremist insurgency.
The school was established as part of the Sikh-run Rising Hope School in the Dabgari area, which is predominately Sikh.
The school, the first of its kind established by the government to provide the Sikh community with STEAM training via computers, "shows the commitment of the KP government to uplift minorities", Baba Gurpal Singh, chairman of the Rising Hope School governing body, said December 5.
"The KP government will provide the needed staff and teachers under a Memorandum of Understanding, while other basic amenities including electricity and security arrangements will be arranged by the Sikh community," he said.
The setup will open new vistas of progress and development for Sikhs and bring them into the mainstream, according to Singh.
"The initiative also highlights the existing situation of interfaith harmony after peace. It also promote a soft image of the country where both the majority and minority communities live peacefully and enjoy excellent mutual co-existence," he added.
In the first phase, the KP Information Technology Department installed eight computers in two rooms, said Umair Zahid, the principal of the school.
"With the passage of time and keeping in view the strength of students, further additions will be made to the school," he said.
"Ushering them into new fields of science and mathematics through computers is a phenomenon that will change mindsets and instil in them further curiosity to excel in contemporary fields," Zahid said.
Students are realising that the way forward to a better future demands new approaches to education, he said.
"The initiative of the government will change the perspective of Sikh youngsters towards life and pave the way for their entrance in public and private sector jobs," he added.
Tool against extremism
The majority of Sikh women are illiterate, according to Hardyal Singh, the chief executive of the school.
"Providing modern-day education facilities to our children is a guarantee... on part of government that minorities will be facilitated to pursue their dreams and become a useful part of society and play a role in the country's development," said Singh.
Education is a vital factor in changing the viewpoints of human beings on the world and provides perspective about the perils of negativity and extremism, said Singh, whose father the Taliban kidnapped in 2007.
"The marginalised and illiterate are more vulnerable to elements of extremism and militancy, while education is a tool that empowers us to sift good from evil and distinguish right from wrong," he said.
"We are striving to improve the country's economy by combining members of the Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Hindu communities and those from other faiths in the race for the country's united development," said Kamran Khan Bangash, special assistant to the KP chief minister and member of the KP Assembly.
The provincial government is planning to set up more facilities aimed at the development and uplif of minorities, said Bangash.
"The minority and majority are enjoying the same rights in the country, and they deserve equal opportunities to grow and prosper," he said.
The school is a milestone achievement of the KP Department of Information Technology in imparting the Sikh community with STEAM education, he said, adding that "minorities will be fully supported and facilitated by the government in gaining a modern-day education".