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Halifax holds out a hand to Kashmir

Gugsy Ahmed, head of Parkinson Lane primary, Halifax, knows what many of his pupils who have relatives in the earthquake zone are going through.

"My mum is in Islamabad," he said. "Luckily she is safe and I managed to get in touch before I saw the pictures on TV."

But he estimates scores of his pupils' families have been less fortunate.

With 97 per cent of the school's 500 children and half the 80 staff having Pakistani backgrounds, the disaster has had a big impact. "We have a few children coming in very, very quiet, obviously upset by what has been going on at home and the tears that are being shed there. A lot of them are keen to talk about what they have seen on TV. I had a queue of children outside my door on Monday morning asking 'Can we do this, can we do that?' ," he said.

Pupils were able to talk about their feelings at a special assembly. Some called on classmates to give up their pocket money, asking them to imagine what it must be like to be trapped under rubble without their parents.

Others said the council should help.

The result is an appeal launched in conjunction with Calderdale's National Union of Teachers branch to raise the pound;20,000 estimated to be needed to rebuild a school in Pakistan.

Calderdale's 103 schools are being asked to donate pound;1 for every pupil and member of staff, local MPs to donate pound;2 for every school in their constituency and councillors pound;1 for every school in their ward.

The money may be used to rebuild Iqra, a school for four to 14-year-olds with which Parkinson Lane has built a partnership.

The Halifax teachers have yet to hear from their colleagues in Kashmir. Mr Ahmed hopes a trip by four of his staff will go ahead in February, but with Iqra just 30 miles outside Muzaffarabad, he is fearing the worst.

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