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The Pakistan quake: Why 10,000 schools collapsed

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Ten-year-old Kaleem's classroom is now a tent, his schoolyard a patch of ground near a stream. His real school in Bampora was flattened in the earthquake, trapping him under rubble for six hours before rescuers found him. Kaleem, smiling shyly, says he is happy to be back in class.

Kaleem's makeshift tent school, which the Army opened just days ago in Balakot, signals that the first wave of healing has begun after at least 17,000 children died in school collapses. But it comes amidst growing demands from citizens groups for an investigation into why so many schools - some 10,000 - came down, and confrontations over safety between concerned parents and school administrators.

"The intensity of the quake was quite strong enough - but the shoddy materials may have caused even more deaths," says Bushra Gohar, director of the Human Resource Management and Development Center in Peshawar.

Ms. Gohar and other experts say systemic corruption in government construction projects is directly responsible for the devastating losses among northern Pakistan's next generation.

"This is criminal negligence by the state," says Gohar, whose organization is considering a public interest lawsuit against the education department of the government, and the department of communications and works.

The call for an investigation, fast becoming a political battleground, is but one of many immense challenges now facing a nation struggling to rehabilitate its future generations.

The landscape in the north is littered with flattened schools, eerily transformed into some of the largest graveyards of this devastated area. Some 500 students died in the Government Boys High School in Balakot, where 200 bodies still lie beneath the rubble, locals say. Some 8,000 schools collapsed in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), and 2,000 in Pakistan's less-populous Kashmir region. All the schools collapsed in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, reports the Associated Press.


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