A while ago, I had to go to a relative’s house for dinner. While I was there I noticed a rather familiar looking girl talking to my mother. Upon a closer look it finally hit me that this was the same girl who used to work as a maid for my uncles family, nearly five to six years ago.
As my curiosity got the best of me, I soon found out that Zareena had quit her job here because she wanted to go to school and pursue her education. Naturally, her parents were strictly against their “rebellious” daughters ambitions. But despite of all the excessive drama and emotional blackmail she had to go through at home everyday, Zareena continued to work hard and completed her Matric. Right now, she is preparing for her Inter exams.
When I first heard the tale of her immense courage and motivation, I was awestruck. People like her are the true superheroes, I had thought. The real Wonder Woman, who had beaten all the odds stacked against her and done what she believed in. But what kills me inside is that there are hundreds of thousands of little Zareenas all over this country. The little girls, who so badly want to carry their own bags filled with books, to copy homework from the blackboard, instead of washing somebody else’s dirty dishes, to go to school instead of a job. Sadly, our society doesn’t let them.
Once, I was asked a very interesting question. While I was going on with my rant about how education is the answer to all of mans problems, someone asked me why it was so important for women to be educated? In his opinion, women stayed at home and looked after her children, while men were the “natural breadwinners”. You’ll just be wasting your money and time, he had concluded. At that time, I had found this question blatantly offensive but now I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is the mindset of people all across Pakistan.
The answer to this question, however, is very simple. Quality education is the birthright of every man, woman and child. I believe that an illiterate girl goes on to become an illiterate mother. So even if a woman decides to stay at home to look after her children, her education is still of utmost importance because she is the source of knowledge, the guiding light, for her children.
If a boy has grown up in house where all the women in his family are uneducated, it is most likely that he will not educate his own daughters either, and hence the vicious cycle
of illiteracy will continue to go on. That is why I don’t just believe in Taleem. I believe in Taleem Sab Ke Liye.
Illiteracy is a contagious disease and the sooner we understand that the better. So instead of complaining about the shortcomings of our education system, its time we take a leaf out of Zareenas book and make the difference ourselves. No matter how small the change is, one in a million is definitely better than none in a million.
A wise man once said, “To change the future, you have to start from the present”. All I can add to that is, be the first to set an example and watch the world follow your footsteps.
Director of academics, Taleem Sab Key Liye
About a year ago, me and my twenty-something class mates arrived at SMB Fatimah Jinnah government girl’s school for a four week teaching internship. After an introductory session we were escorted to our respective classes (that is classes that we would teach) I was assigned more than thirty pre-schoolers.
As I entered the room, adorned with coloured charts and little wooden chairs, I was greeted more warmly than expected by the teachers. They told me that there was a particular student they wanted me to focus on, and asked me to follow them into the library. I walked behind the two women into the tiny room, which was a store-closet more than a library, and saw for the first time Tauheed (shown in the picture with me). The little boy, whose hearing and speech impairment was to inspire and amaze me in ways that cannot be penned down.
Over the period of four weeks I was to learn of little Tauheed’s intelligent and curious mind, and of his teachers’ lack of faith. I doubt a day went by when I didn’t hear one of the teachers in the staff room mourning the little boy’s disability and how sad it was that he wouldn’t be able to cope with his studies. To the contrary, I, and any other teaching intern that came into contact with Tauheed, was baffled at the little boy’s curiosity and cleverness.
Despite what his teachers, and indeed some parents expected, he began to catch up with his studies just fine. Added to this was his infinitely curious mind, unlike his class-mates, Tauheed was not content with merely seeing a camera being pointed at him (we took pictures of our students on our last day) he would not sit still until he came behind the camera and saw for himself how the little gadget could record and freeze life. His intelligence and eagerness to learn were as clear as his youthful innocence.
Yet, ironically I suppose, but when the four week period ended not many teachers were impressed, some even swearing that the boy’s disability was some sort of a punishment for a possible sin on his parents’ part. Shocked and even angered I left Tauheed at the mercy of people who did not understand him.
The next time I talked about him was after I began my studies at Nixor. Sir Nadeem (Ghani, dean of Nixor college) asked me about the internship and seemed particularly eager to know more about the boy I had coached separately. I told him about young Tauheed, his disability, his brilliance and the irony of his situation. I wondered out loud whether the poverty ridden back-ground he came from was the disease that plagued his world, Sir Nadeem disagreed. He recalled an incident when a very well-off man had sworn that the floods that nearly destroyed interior Sindh were a reckoning appointed by God as punishment for some sin. Confused, I asked Sir Nadeem if it was possible to decide whether some calamity or the suffering of a person, in this case a five year old boy, was God’s method of punishment.
That day I learnt one of my first, and probably most important, lessons at Nixor, that we cannot decide whether someone’s suffering is a penalty determined by God, for the simple fact that as human beings we will never know for sure what God’s will is, however for humanity’s sake aiding the person who suffers is our responsibility.
A few weeks later, I met a student at Nixor who had the same impairment as Tauheed, yet he had an amazing O’level result, and was doing well at Nixor as well. I was amazed, this was clear proof that Tauheed could have done well too.
I told Iqra (Shahid, the now director of academics for TSKL) about how unfair I thought this situation was, after a minute of silence she said, “You know, that’s actually why I joined Taleem (TSKL)” and suddenly I realised. The disease that plagued that little boy’s world wasn’t poverty, it was illiteracy. Tauheed was surrounded by illiterate people, or by those who were just barely educated, they seemed to want to help him, but had no real hope for him. This particular Nixor student on the other hand was surrounded by people who believed that if he had the intellect then a physical impairment was no reason why his true potential should not shine.
And that is why I believe in education, for the little boy I met a year ago, and for the million brilliant little boys, just like him, who deserve to shine.
CEO Taleem Sab Key Liye