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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where there is a will there is a way

Shahzeb Shah lives in Mirpur Bhatoro, a small town of District Thaatta in Sindh. The education rate of Mirpur Bhatoro unfortunately has never been high and most the residents of the area live in poverty and below the poverty line in some cases. Most families make ends meet usually through partaking in agricultural activities.

Shahzeb is one of the fortunate ones who had access to education growing up in Mirpur Bhatoro. As a matter of fact his mother is the principal of the town’s only public school. Growing up in an educationalist household Shahzeb was quick to notice that even with an educational facility present people still hesitated to send their children to school.

After attending the Active Citizens training offered by the British Council through a local partner Sindh Radiant Organization (SRO) Shahzeb decided to investigate this matter further and ultimately take steps to improve the state of education in his town.

With the help of other young people Shahzeb went door-to-door to investigate whether children of local households were receiving an education – and if not, what was preventing them?

Soon this group of Active Citizens discovered that parents who were usually reluctant to send their children to school headed families that lived in abject poverty. Their children usually helped them with household chores, worked odd jobs, and sometimes even begged from passers-by on the streets to bring some change home.

With great effort and patience they convinced parents of out-of-school children to send their children to school free of cost.

After conducting this initial research Shahzeb and his friends started the second phase of the project: they convinced Shahzeb’s mother to let them use the school’s facilities to offer free classes to out-of-school children. It did not take much effort to convince her and the arrangement reached was that Shahzeb and his group members could use two class-rooms in the evening when regular classes were over to offer free lessons to deserving children.

Soon the free tuition centre was up and running and the two class-rooms were brimming with children. Shahzeb and his friends pool in their funds to buy books and supplies for the school.
Nearly 80 children attend the free tuition centre, out of which 50 are girls. Besides providing lessons in basic English, Urdu, Sindhi, and Maths Shahzeb’s groups also concentrates on character building classes and providing awareness about hygiene.

Shahzeb and his youth group have made a point of making learning fun for their students. Children are encouraged to indulge in physical exercise when not in class. In fact learning in a safe and enjoyable environment and being coached in sports like cricket and football are some of the things that children look forward to each night when they go back home. And the satisfaction of making learning an enjoyable experience is what makes Shahzeb and his friends continue teaching at the free tuition centre.

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