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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mentoring greatness

Asma Farhad teaches at a popular university in Lahore. When discussing the state of education in Pakistan and how it can be transformed, Aasma’s passion for education shines trough: “As an academic, I believe reforms alone cannot provide a solution, our education system rather requires a whole new revolution. I resolve to introduce a novel learning experience to those who need education most”.

Recently Aasma helped her students renovate a computer lab for less privileged young people. With the help of cash donations they also refurbished the faulty equipment. A brief description of the project supplied by Aasma:

We ran a pilot project in the University of Central Punjab, Lahore in August 2012, and experimented with the semi-literate children from slums and very poor economic back ground. Ranging from 8 to 13 years, all these children attended a six days long workshop on using computers as an e-learning tool. To our surprise children who could not even spell their names perfectly were able to use Google search, Google translator, find and play educational games and videos and learnt from them, entered correct URLs, receive and send emails too. That too in just six days!

We also observed that these children did not only enjoy learning, they were stimulated to learn more and often preferred to work independently. This made us work more seriously towards our second goal i.e. to provide free of cost computer and internet access to these children.

For this, our group initiated “donate a computer” drive. We discussed with our friends, family and acquaintances to donate old used computer CPUs, monitors, mouse, wires and key boards. We learnt about an institution in Iqbal Town, Lahore through a friend that provides free of cost education to children with very weak economic back ground. Upon meeting them we learnt that their abandoned computer lab had a few computers lying there.

Our volunteers renovated the lab, repaired old computers, replaced worn out spare parts with the workable ones. The lab is now operational and continues broadening horizons for the young fellows studying there.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Education for all – turning a dream into a reality

Luqman Elahi lives in district Layyah – backward area of Punjab. 70% of the district is rural where a feudal social system of sardars and jageerdars prevails. Enrollment in the local schools is low; poverty plays the biggest role in the schools lack facilities. Ghost schools are a common phenomenon and are mostly used as ‘bhanas ‘(the place where the livestock is penned). Those who are willing to spend money to see their children educated face other obstacles: landlords who discourage education. Luqman chose to work as a youth activist for the development of his area and to help educate the residents of Layyah. He believes that this is possible only through awareness of the benefits of education. Says Luqman: “I will educate them about necessity of education”.
Luqman met different families during his door-to-door awareness campaign. He talked to parents about Article 25a  and how the dream of an educated Pakistan can now be turned into a reality. Luqman discovered that most parents of wanted to educate their children and had hopes for a better future for them – different lives than the ones they lead. The failure to pay the high fee – often to ghost schools is the main reason due to which they chose not to enroll their children in school.
When asked how he would address these challenges, Luqman replied: “I chose to work on admitting underprivileged children in a private school. I knew that it was challenging owing to the fact that they couldn’t afford to pay the high fees on their own”. Luqman met the principal of a local private school to discuss this problem. In the principal he found a kindred spirit who agreed to admit students to his school without charging them any fee for one whole year.
Luqman is not only generous with his time, but does not hold back in spending his money for the all important cause of education: “I managed to pay for their uniform cost but I am looking for sponsors to support the cost of books, stationery for admitted students” he says. Thanks to the efforts of Luqman, 33 children from his community now attend classes regularly without worrying about paying a fee for them for a year.