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Homecoming: ‘It never occurred to me to stay away from Chitral’
Homecoming: ‘It never occurred to me to stay away from Chitral’

Homecoming: ‘It never occurred to me to stay away from Chitral’

CHITRAL: Change is the unsettling buzzword on British educationist and Langland School and College principal Carey Schofield’s mind after she returned to Chitral after a hiatus of eight months.

“Since I left Chitral in May, the district has been affected by severe floods and what was probably the worst earthquake in its history,” Schofield told The Express Tribune over email.

“Almost everybody has been affected in one way or another. [Although] a great deal of help has been provided, people are suffering nonetheless.”

She added both natural disasters have negatively impacted the school.  “Our building has been affected,” she said. “We had to move five classes from one section by renting another house.” During these turbulent times, the educationist maintained contact with the school through email and telephone, and ran the affairs of the school from her kitchen table in Chelsea.

An uneasy parting

Schofield, who became the principal of the institute in 2013 after Major Geoffrey Douglas Langlands retired from the post, was unseated from her position on June 26, 2015. At the time, she was on a visit to London. Langlands returned to seize the reins of the school, saying it was not being run in an effective manner.

Earlier on June 13, 2015 Langlands had visited Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to discuss management issues at the school and received a favourable response from him. Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan blocked Schofield’s application for a new work visa for Pakistan on the retired educationist’s advice.

Now, Schofield has been able to return to the country—which she did earlier on February 5—after a large number of teachers repeatedly urged Langlands to put an end to the dispute.

“We are lucky to have very committed teachers who, through their loyalty and sheer hard work were able to avert crisis in my absence,” she said.

Where the heart is

According to Schofield, her return to Chitral was almost inevitable and she was looking forward to coming back to a life she had left behind

“Chitral is my home,” she said. “My job is here, my house is here [and even] my animals are here. How could I not return? It never occurred to me to stay away from Chitral.”

Recalling the difficulties she faced in returning to Chitral, she said the governing body of her school helped her through the ordeal.

“No one outside the governing body had any authority to interfere with my visa process,” she said. “We are lucky that our school has great supporters who helped and encouraged us during last year’s difficulties. We are also grateful to the interior ministry who realised that wrong had been done and immediately granted the visa.”

Picking up the pieces

Schofield is eager to pick up from where she left off.  “We [at the school] are hampered by a lack of money, electricity, water, communication facilities,” she said.

According to Schofield, the institute is working to strengthen contacts with leading schools and educationists from across the world. “We want to exploit experience and expertise from other parts of the world and bring the best of it to Chitral,” she said.

“We have a large number of pupils with dyslexia and dyspraxia who have specific needs not recognised by locals,” she said. “We now have a dedicated learning support coordinator.”

Chitral battered but not beaten by earthquake

Schofield said these facilities will require money, time and dedication.

“It is no secret that the school was in a parlous state three years ago,” she said. “The governing body, teachers and I are working to transform it. We are ambitious for our students and expect them to do their best in everything they do. Our approach is simple. It is not original, but I think it is the best.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2016.

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