Travel 650 km north of Islamabad, along one of the world’s most treacherous roads (the Karakoram Highway), and you eventually reach Northern Pakistan – the focus of Italian photographer Andrea Francolini‘s project My First School, where electricity shortages pose a daily problem.
Francolini first visited the region in 2008 to photograph the annual polo tournaments, as part of a project focusing on traditional sports. A year later, he returned to do a story on women working in Islamic society, and after interviewing a woman who had started a school over twenty years ago, he was invited to her school. On visiting, Francolini says he was both fascinated and shocked by what he saw. “The children were children: happy, joyful, shy and naughty at times. Everything appeared normal at first,” he says, “but when I entered a classroom, my heart just sank.” Among the things that stood out, he recounts what he saw in flashes: “a slab of cement, one light bulb, no seats or desks, one ancient blackboard, and the children sitting on the floor sharing second-hand books.”