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