Hunza:  State-of-the-art building of Al-Murtaza Academy was inaugurated in Murtazabad village of Hunza on Sunday.  The school is built with funds provided by American national, Diana MacArthur, in memory of her late daughter, Elizabeth Tschursin.

Ms. Tschursin visited Hunza in 1993 and fell in love with the place and its people. She spent a few months teaching science at an old building of Al-Murtazabad Academy.

Later, Ms. McArthur visited the area to remember the ‘happiest days of her daughter’s life’, and decided to construct a new building for the school, as a parting tribute to the memory Ms. Elizabeth. The $3.5 million project was implemented in collaboration with Al-Murtaza Educational and Social Welfare Organization (AMESWO), a local civil society organization. It will benefit over 400 students, girls and boys, from Early Childhood Development to grade ten.

The school, which covers 2.6 acres, is the first ever seismic-resistant school building in Gilgit-Baltistan with facilities for physically disabled children, having facilities for central heating, insulated walls and windows, and energy-saving light fixtures.

The school building was handed over to Aga Khan Foundation, Pakistan, “to ensure quality education and sustainability.”  Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan (AKES, P) will run the school as ‘Aga Khan School Murtazabad’, under a gift deed. The gift deed was signed between the president of AMESWO Naem Uddin and Shaukat Khimani, the representative of AKF, during the school’s inaugural event.

Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, Minister for Works, Government of Gilgit-Baltistan, was chief guest of the inauguration ceremony of the school.  President Ismaili National Council for Pakistan Hafiz Sher Ali, CEO AKES, P Imtiaz Momin, Director Education AKF Sughra Choudhry Khan, renowned mountaineer Samina Baig, principal donor Diana MacArthur, her son Alexander Tschurisn and niece Liliyan MacArthur, among others, attended the ceremony.

Diana MacArthur thanked all the people and organisations who closely worked with her and played a major role in materializing the project. “Eleven years ago, I had promised AMESWO that I would help the community realize its dreams of a K-12 school for girls and boys”, she said, adding, “We set the standards for performance very high because making something ‘just good enough’ will not change the world.”

“We must prepare our children for the information age”, MacArthur said. Affiliation with the Aga Khan University Examination Board is a great start, she added.

She expressed her hope that AKES, P will ensure the quality education and sustainability of the school operation. “My daughter, the late Elizabeth (Leeza) Tschursin, in whose memory I donated this school, admired the good work of the Aga Khan organizations, so I feel certain that she could not have hoped for a better outcome”, the 85 years old mother said.

Minister of Works, Dr. Muhammad Iqbal promised to construct a 1.5 km long access road which will connect the school with the Karakorum Highway.

President of AMESWO, Naeem Uddin, thanked the principal donor, Diana MacArthur, and all other donors, philanthropists and community members for their support in completing the project. He also appreciated the role of Ms. MacArthur in water, sanitation and solid waste management projects, in addition to her tireless efforts in the execution of the school project.

Talking about the partnership with AKF, Naeem Said, “We have entrusted AKESP with the future of our youth to educate them according to the highest traditions of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)”.

Elizabeth Tschursin, who was born in 1955, was Ms. MacArthur’s oldest child. She received her doctorate in microbiology from George Washington University in 1993. Tschursin visited Hunza as a tourist in 1994.  She taught science at Al-Murtaza Academy for few months and went back to US due to expiry of visa. She died at the age of 39 before she could return to Hunza to continue teaching.

Courtesy: Pamir Times

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