Written by: Abeera Ahmed - Humqadam/Islamabad
Photos credits: Syed Muhammad Abdullah Hameed - Humqadam/Islamabad
Dr Sharman Stone, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, visited Government Girls Higher Secondary School (GGHSS) Chamkani, District Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday, September 18, 2018. Funded by the Australian Government along with UK Aid Humqadam- School Construction and Rehabilitation Programme (SCRP), under the larger umbrella of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Sector Programme (KESP), has provided 5 new classrooms, 11 new toilets, 2 staff rooms, 4 science labs, 1 IT lab, and 1 principal’s office at GGHSS Chamkani.
As Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr Stone promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in Australia and internationally. Prior to her appointment as Ambassador in 2017, she had a distinguished 20-year career in the Australian Parliament.
Dr. Stone was accompanied by Annemarie Reerink, Director- Gender Strategy Effectiveness and Performance Unit; Hannah Birks, Second Secretary-Australian High Commission, and Najma Khan, Programme Manager- Gender, Australian High Commission. The guests were greeted with enthusiasm by the School Principal, Ms. Farzala Lalsher, Humqadam representatives, and the students at the school. The Chief Guest was given a brief introduction to the Humqadam-SCRP and the contributions to the school.
Dr. Stone was then taken to a walking tour of the newly constructed block while the Principal talked about the challenges and opportunities in girls’ education, and the difference in the educational experience post-Humqadam interventions. The Chief Guest proceeded for an interactive session with students in their classrooms. Excited and curious students volunteered to ask questions from the Chief Guest about her school life in Australia. In return, the Chief Guest also posed questions to the students about their ongoing English lesson and aspirations. Dr. Stone and the students had an engaging one-on-one time, and the young girls were left feeling encouraged and energetic by the Guest’s visit.
Afterwards, the Chief Guest planted a tree sapling in the courtyard as a show of her green thumb and encourage environmental sustainability. She also unveiled the plaque at the new block, which signalled the importance of girls’ education and served as a sign of encouragement for young girls to continue their educational aspirations.
GGHSS Chamkani is one of 50 Higher Secondary Schools that have been provided with improved learning environment in KP. Being one of the few all-girls school, GGHSS Chamkani was in dire straits as the school struggled with a dilapidated building, leaking roof, and issues of overcrowding. The school was adopted by Humqadam-SCRP in 2015 and underwent complete transformation to ensure a safe, secure and equitable learning experience for more than 1000 students currently enrolled in the school.
Humqadam-SCRP is the largest UK Aid infrastructure programme in the world, with significant contribution by Australian Aid in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Humqadam-SCRP aims to improve school infrastructure in public schools of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and as of September 2018 Humqadam-SCRP has constructed 607 new classrooms and rehabilitated 1,405 classrooms in 233 schools. The programme is a part of the £420 million Punjab Education Support Programme (PESP) II and the £283 million Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Sector Programme (KESP), large and ambitious programmes which represent a collaborative effort between DFID, Australian Aid, and the provincial governments to result in more children in school and better learning outcomes.