Saturday, October 15, 2005

READ foundation lose 140 schools, many teachers and pupils dead

140 schools belonging to the READ foundation, a pakistan-based educational charity, were destroyed in the earthquake. READ have now offered to help IR distribute aid.

The Lost Children

Nisar Ahmed stares at me from across the table with a look of desperation and confusion.

The fundraising manager for the Pakistan based READ foundation has just come to the realisation that all of their 140 schools in the region have been destroyed and that casualties amongst pupils and teachers are high.

It took the charity 11 years to build up a network of 323 schools all over Pakistan and in less that a minute on Saturday morning most of those in Pakistan-administered Kashmir were reduced to rubble.

It has become more and more apparent as each day passes that children are the main victims of this terrible disaster.

"We had 1,100 teachers and 120 are confirmed dead but this number will definitely increase. There were about 22,500 children in our schools and 1600 are confirmed dead, again this is sure to increase as we have not yet reached the remote areas," said the 32-year-old.

"We have been working for ten years and it has all gone – but we will not give up and until we can have buildings we will use tents, but at the moment our priority is to rescue and save people."

Nisar was in Bagh, one of the worst affected areas, when the earth quake struck early on Saturday.

"I saw these poor people suffering when houses collapsed. I saw a four-year-old boy lying on the floor who had been crushed and it was a horrific sight.

"We didn’t even have coffins to bury the dead or stretchers for the funerals. We didn’t even have digging tools to bury them."

Their plight was further worsened by the onset of rain in the evening:

"It began raining in the evening and the children were crying because of the weather, my heart was bleeding for them.

"This has been a great tragedy for everyone but especially for the children – they have suffered the most."

Teaching is now put to the back of the minds of teachers as they focus on rescuing any survivors who may still be alive.

"We could hear the voices of children in the rubble, but we couldn't do anything to get them out. All of the teachers have lost family and children but they are starting rehabilitation activities that include help to find shelter.

Teachers to help IR distribute aid

"Our focus has now switched to saving lives and we are ready to work with anybody to do this."

Teachers from the READ foundation now offered to help Islamic Relief staff distribute food and other aid to survivors of the disaster.

"This is a great calamity and whoever can help then we need it. We need help and this means sacrifice – this is about humanity.

"In one village in Bagh, of a population of 800 people only sixteen survived. We know about one private school alone where 450 children died."

Yet despite the depressing statistics which seem to get worse day by day Nisar and others like him are rolling up their sleeves to rebuild their nation.

Talk is of a lost generation in this part of Kashmir but the people are hopeful that basic humanity will help foster a new one.

Source: Islamic Relief

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