Life goes on - but scars caused by earthquake will fade slowly

Date Publish: 
02/01/06
Region-Country: 
Pakistan / Asia fr

Rizwana has resumed teaching the Government
Girls' High School in Gari Habibullah, but she's still haunted by
the memories of her 2-year-old son who died in the October-8 killer
earthquake. Thousands of buildings were completely destroyed -
including most of the government schools in NWFP and
Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

"I used to keep my son at home with his
grandmother. Alas, on that day I could have left him at home, and I
don't know why I brought him to school. He was playing in a
classroom on the second floor when all the school buildings shook
and tumbled down within seconds," says Rizwana while trying to stop
tears rolling down her cheeks.

IOM visited the site of this government school
situated 25 kilometers from Balakot. It is slowly being
reconstructed thanks to a donation of aluminum shelters for classes
but they lack furniture, water facilities and latrines. The school
resumed classes a month after the earthquake and the students are
still in seven tents erected adjacent to the damaged school
building.

"Students are still horrified by the memories
of the earthquake and not interested in going back to their
original school building," says Rizwana. "Initially, the students
refused to attend classes in tents beside the rubble of the
building because they couldn't forget the memories of their
friends' deaths."

Before the earthquake, the school had 750
female students, but 100 girl students, two schoolteachers and a
clerk died on October 8. Out of the 650 students who survived the
earthquake, almost 300 of them have migrated along with their
families to Mansehra, Rawalpindi and Karachi.

With each passing day the number of students
is increasing and currently it has 350 students. "In the beginning,
we didn't even force them to study textbooks. Instead, we tried to
engaged them by telling stories and diverting their attention from
the appalling memories of the earthquake." says Rizwana.

However, life goes on in the quake-affected
areas.

"I know I have lost my son, and it hurts a
lot. But when I see others who lost their entire families, it makes
me feel that my emptiness is not bigger than what others are going
through," says Rizwana. "I'm trying to keep myself busy and
continue teaching and I'm slowly feeling like I'm returning to my
normal life. But, you know, I will never forget what this
earthquake did to my family."