Parents in the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan, a peaceful part of the country surrounded by towering mountains, hold a deep value for education. To my surprise, almost all of the schools in the area—both public and government—are attended by an equal ratio of boys and girls. Compared to other schools in this part of the world, that statistic is astounding.
“My First School,” an Australian charity, aims to promote education in this part of the country. Since its inception in 2011, it has (with the help of local educators) donated money to public schools in order to raise the standards of education in the area. These donations take many forms: furniture, water tanks, bricks, materials, books, teachers, and sponsorships that help children attend school.
But the main obstacle they need to surmount is the rationed supply of electricity in the remote villages.
Many schools do not have electricity, and for those that do, it is rationed twice a day. This means that during school hours, children are frequently left in the dark. They are forced to rely exclusively on the sunlight piercing through the windows to see their books, work on their materials.
This is not so much an issue during the long summer days, but during the winter, there is very little light. As the sun remains low between the mountain peaks—which can reach above 7,000 meters—the lack of light makes it difficult for students to carry out the most basic tasks of reading and writing.
This series of images portrays some of the schools that struggle with this issue. There is no easy fix—in order to have the electricity they need for light and heat, the schools must purchase generators, a costly expense.
Regardless of these obstacles (which would not be considered acceptable in the Western world), the children and their parents persevere. There is no other option at this stage. Obtaining an education is the only solution that will lead to improvement in their lives and communities.
Editor’s Note: Francolini is the founder of My First School. Books produced after each annual trip can be purchased here — all the proceeds go to the charity. At this stage My First School Pty Ltd doesn’t have a deductible gift recipient status and therefore can’t issue an invoice for tax deductions on any purchase or donation, but we hope you’ll consider supporting the project nonetheless.