Second-grader Tahir Noor Zaman stood in the sunshine with dozens of other young survivors of Pakistan's massive earthquake, waiting for his classes to begin. Springing up on a dusty soccer field in the shattered city of Muzaffarabad was his new school, a massive tent of white cloth and bamboo poles.
The makeshift school is among the first few to open up this week in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, since the Oct 8. quake hit the region.
This is where Zaman and about 300 other children will be studying for the time being. They are among the survivors of the magnitude-7.6 earthquake that buried thousands of children and teachers under the rubble when it hit during school hours on a Saturday morning.
Zaman said he and a few other classmates escaped the quake, which killed nearly 80,000 people, because they were outside on the grounds of his elementary school. Earlier this week, he surveyed his new classroom with a little trepidation and some sadness.
"It has no rooms," said Zaman, 7. "My (former) school was better than this."
The temporary boys' school is being run by Islami Jamiat Talba, a student organization linked with Pakistan's largest and most organized Islamic political group, Jamaat-e-Islami.
A day earlier, the group set up a similar school for young girls in another part of the city.
None of the 2,486 public schools and 76 colleges in the district of Muzaffarabad were left standing after the earthquake, said Manzoor Ahmed Naqashbandi, a government supervisor of schools in the region.
"With help from UNICEF and other organizations, we will set up a tent school for every school destroyed in the quake," he said.
The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that 10,000 schools have been destroyed in Kashmir and northwestern Pakistan. UNICEF official Katey Grusovin called it a "children's catastrophe."
Between 1.6 million and 2.2 million children have been left homeless and at risk of various problems, UNICEF says. Doctors say roughly half their patients have been children, reports the AP. I.L.