Ghotki still frozen in ‘Deewarein’ days

*Feudal rule the roost as ghost schools survive above government control

GHOTKI: The oppression and backwardness depicted in iconic drama serial ‘Deewarein’ stares in the face when a non-native travels in the heart of Sindh. The ‘interior’ Sindh as it is called has transformed a little in the realm of infrastructure with metalled roads, electricity, telephone connections and concrete housing ever more present.
Dotted with various religio-cultural centres like Bhurchundi Sharif, Chalan Faqeer, Pir Aziz Karmani, Pir Pakhroi Laal, Soi Shareef, Pir Gulab Shah Bukhari and a sprawling Hindu Darbar Sant Satram Das at Raharki, the district has preserved its multicultural, multi-religious distinction. This typical Sindh desert town has evolved into a business centre of sort thanks to various cotton factories, a fertilizer plant, oil and gas exploration companies, private power plants. The socio-political domination of feudal has not waned away at all despite external influence and foreign investment both.
Daharki, by far, has the highest employment rate in the district yet the city and its suburbs live in backwardness. From power supply to clean drinking water and education, everything remains divorced by the Sindh government. Besides Meher tribesmen of Pir Pagara, various sub tribes of Baloch, like Leghari and Salami, dominate the political and social scene. “In Daharki area alone, schools can function as long as the local political personality or the feudal does not need them,” says Atta Baloch, a farmer in the taluka.
A dilapidated building in the vicinity remains locked. The left-over part of rooftop is covered with vegetation while shrubs inside the boundary wall are too impassable. This used to be a school or was built to be one. A kilometer southwest was another similar structure but well-maintained. Even a man kept a close eye on ‘the outsiders’ taking pictures without any ‘permission’. This lucky primary school serves as a baithak or drawing room for a local politician from Meher family. These brick-and-mortar structures were completed roughly in 1986, when Mohammad Khan Junejo was the prime minister.
“Teachers were appointed and even now there are fresh ones being appointed but nobody comes to the school,” says Ata Muhammad, who drives a freight taxi in the adjacent areas. He recalls that the buildings were inaugurated with pomp and show but never were populated with students on daily basis. “I can’t recall this ‘drawing room’ of saien ever used for a school”. Such ghost schools are neither on media’s news agenda nor a cause for concern for the successive governments in the province.
However, not all school campuses have been annexed by the influential. There are some which quench the thirst of curious young minds. Zakarriya Leghari, a security guard, says the primary school neither has toilets nor running water. “Teachers and students have to go in the fields for bowels. Sometimes, children get bitten by snakes or other bugs.” The good news, however, is that both the teachers promptly take the classes, one in a classroom while the other in a veranda.
With strength of 26 teachers and 600 students, the Government High School Dad Leghari has been true symbol of service for education. Built in 1986, the school building has nearly collapsed for lack of maintenance. “Most of the classrooms have no roofs while other are too dangerous for student’s use,” explain Nazar Ali Leghari, a senior science teacher. The class size has swollen to 80, which is too difficult for a teacher to handle. Mohammad Ijaz, a local school teacher, explains that whenever the government allocates money for a school, the contractor take away the lion’s share. “If he is constructing a roof, the contractor will install steel frame and fill it with brick but without cementing it with concrete.” Given routine desert storms, the brick fall from the roof and injure children and teachers, often seriously.
Still, Ghotki district of Sindh being the hometown of former chief Minister Sardar Ali Muhammad Meher, Sardar Ali Gohar and former federal minister Ali Nawaz Meher ranks too low on human development indicators such as education and health. While the state has been allocating resources, however meager, for education, little has actually reached the grassroots. The feudal culture seems to be evolving newer ways to control their simple and ever thankful peasants.

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