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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An education in hope

Huddled in a small room in a Baloch neighbourhood of Quetta, Sadia talks about why she runs a school for children in her home. The school itself is a modest affair: a spare room devoid of furniture. The children sit on the carpeted floor as does their teacher. Sadia lives in a small house – partly brick and cement, and partly mud walls and thatched roof.

When asked what inspired her to start a school for her neighbourhood children, Sadia replied: “There should be a safe and happy place for children where they can play, make friends, and learn together”.

Her neighbourhood – Killi Allahbad, is relatively conservative and is said to be a stronghold of a local political party with a separatist agenda. According to Sadia, the young people of the area are mostly unemployed; the illiteracy rate is also high. The nearest primary school for boys is at a considerable distance and the nearest school for young girls is even further away. According to Sadia it takes children approximately 20 – 25 minutes to walk to the nearest public school.
Since most of the people of the neighbourhood do not own cars their children have to walk to school. Because of the daily deteriorating security situation and the rising crime rate most parents had stopped sending their children to school. Their biggest fear: kidnappings.

Sadia attended the Active Citizens training in 2011 along with her cousin, Fouzia. Although the problems faced by the Baloch are complex and multi-dimensional and there is no one simple solution for them, Sadia felt that education is one important piece of the puzzle. Without education she says things will only get worse. This passion for education led Sadia to approach a local NGO who were generous enough to donate books and school supplies for children free of cost to her.

Sadia then convinced her family to let her use an unused room in their house for the purpose of holding classes in it. They not only let her use the room but also helped her decorate it and equip it. In a month’s time Sadia’s make-shift school was up and running. Her neighbours welcomed the move and gladly sent their children to Sadia’s make-shift school. Sadia charges the parents of the children a nominal fee of Rs. 50 – which they are happy to pay. This money helps her cover the school’s monthly electricity bill. Sadia’s students include her own brother, a nephew, and a niece.

But the hard work does not stop here: Sadia attends her high school classes during the day and teaches the neighbourhood children in the evenings. Looking at the happy faces surrounding her it is not too difficult to see the gratification that she derives from her Social Action Project and the sense of contribution to her community that keeps her motivated.



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