Islamabad – Aiming to defeat poverty with education, there is a school operating in rural Haripur, owing a promise to provide education to street children living below poverty line for one rupee only.
“Education is an ornament in prosperity and refuge in adversity,” Aristotle’s saying written on the outside wall of a building, turned into school, welcomes you into ‘Bab-ul-Ilm’ established around four months ago in the village Joriyaan, Haripur.
The village is located around 50 Km north-west of Islamabad on Khanpur road linked with silk route.
Slicing the meadows on both sides, newly constructed road takes you to the compound, where two merged schools are enlightening local population with education.
‘Bab-ul-Ilm’ is beaconing education amongst 50 students of class prep and nursery in two limited rented rooms.
“These children belong to very poor families of the village and some of them were involved in child labour. We promised their parents to educate them for only one rupee,” said Zahid Kazmi, owner of the school.
Kazmi told The Nation, he conceived this idea around six years ago, when he travelled in different areas of Hazara division for social work and felt the suffering of people living in far-flung areas. He said there are families in this village who are in the darkness of ignorance for generations.
“We want to introduce education to these generations,” said Kazmi.
Unconventionally, Bab-ul-Ilm is providing nursery education to the children because of the purpose to spread basic and introductory education amongst children irrespective of their age.
School administration has promised the parents of the children enrolled here that it will provide all facilities including uniforms, books, bags, refreshments and transport to students.
“It was necessary to promise and provide these facilities because parents cannot bear all these expenses of school going children,” Zahid said.
School, according to its administrator, is being run on very limited resources utilized by the owner and donations of people.
“Initially we admitted only 50 students from 100 applications because of our limited resources in which we had to fulfil our promise made with the parents,” stated Kazmi.
According to him, convincing parents to send their children to school was not any easy task and they were reluctant, because they were helping hands of their parents in earning.
“An underage child has very much significance for the family living below poverty line because he can add some income in the financial circle,” Kazmi said. Though government schools also provides free of cost education with its wide network but what makes different his school is other facilities and attractions interesting for students.
“It’s a child psyche to go school in uniform, have bag, books, pocket money and transport and we are trying to provide all these things along with education,” he said.
Along with brining street children to school introducing education to them was also not an easy task for three female teachers.
Aneeqa, the schoolteacher told The Nation that language barrier was the main problem in the beginning, as children used to speak in their different mother languages.
“In the beginning we taught them in their mother language to get them familiar with subjects and now they are being taught in common language Urdu,” she said.
Another teacher Iqra while sharing her experience said that all the children are intelligent but only uneducated background in families contributed in learning abilities of students in the beginning.
“They required special attention both their class and homework are done at school, but in four months children have responded impressively,” she said.
Children are being taught the subjects of English, Urdu and Mathematics at this stage.
Ayesha Bibi, mother of the Noureen, enrolled in nursery class is very much satisfied with the standard of education and facilities being provided to her daughter at Bab-ul-Ilm.
She informed The Nation that though a government school is available in the area but she preferred to admit her daughter here because of easy access.
“School administration ensured us that sending my daughter to school will be not a liability on family and they will try to give Noureen a good future so I didn’t refuse the offer,” Ayesha said.
According to Zahid Kazmi, 22 children have won the sponsorship and are being supported by philanthropists.
“It is a good impact that 40 per cent of students are studying on sponsorship now, but it is not enough, more such measures taken by people and organization will be required in future,” he said.
He said that books and uniform were provided by the university students.
Kazmi also aims to construct school’s own building in three years in order to raise its standard up to secondary level but he also fears that it will be not possible without society’s help and contribution.
“Taking first step is always difficult but we are committed that we will fulfil our and these children’s dream,” said Kazmi.
As per UNICEF report issued in last year around 24 million children from age 5 to 16 are out-of-school in Pakistan. And the country stands in the list of top 10 nations where problem of illiteracy exists.
According to government official, around 6 million children in the country are deprived of primary level education and majority of them are girls.
However, because of some basic measures taken by federal and provincial government of providing free education has improved the situation but still much is needed to bring out-of-school children in the circle, said official.