By Cathleen O’Grady The Citizens Foundation (TCF), our current Education beneficiary, has established 830 schools in Pakistan, with a presence in all provinces. Their students’ (and former students’) success stories are a source of inspiration.
Rabia, a nine-year-old student at a TCF primary school in Balochistan, is the first female child in her family to go to school. Although her parents required some persuading, Rabia’s uncle convinced them to allow her to live with him and attend school along with his own seven children. Because TCF is staffed entirely by women, and because of the “pay-as-you-can-afford” fee policy, even the most conservative and impoverished parents are comfortable educating their daughters. Rabia is in grade two, and is learning English alongside her home language, Urdu. She dreams of becoming a doctor.
Many children in impoverished regions are placed in a position of responsibility prematurely by the absence or death of parents. Often, the added expense and difficulty of schooling forces children in this position to prioritize putting food on the table immediately over the longer-term benefits of completing their education. For 15-year-old Amna, the balance is difficult, but the free education provided by TCF is encouraging her to keep her eyes on the enhanced career opportunities an education will bring. Despite working to help her family maintain a living and taking care of her five siblings, Amna is a determined and dedicated student. Mukhtiar Ali, 14 years old, works at a small petrol pump until 9:30 in the evenings for a small wage, which he sets aside for college one day. Despite his education having been delayed, Mukhtiar is determined to go on to tertiary education after he finishes high school.
The students of TCF are not the only people who benefit from the organization. Shabana and her three young children were cast out of their home six years ago, and the shock caused her father to die of a heart attack, leaving an aging mother and three unmarried sisters to take care of. Shabana was able to find a job with TCF as a nanny, and her mother works in the canteen, providing the family with a steady income, while the children attend the school. By empowering and uplifting women, TCF is breaking the cycle of poverty and helping destitute families to feed and educate their children.
The success stories of past pupils are overwhelming. Haleema, one of five siblings, graduated from a TCF high school with an A grade, and she is now studying toward an MBA while working at the TCF head office. Aqeela, 19 years old, is making education a priority in her life ahead of marriage, and has returned as a teacher to the TCF primary school where she studied, determined to make a difference in the lives of the children in her hands. Shumaila, another past pupil who has gone on to become a TCF teacher, is honored to serve TCF as a one of its thousands of teachers. She says, “TCF gave me the confidence with which I face the world today. Now that I am a teacher myself, it is my duty to give back to these children of my community. We owe it to the future of Pakistan to develop these children into responsible adults tomorrow.”