THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, KARACHI, 18th SEPTEMBER 2013:
Aliya*, 13, stopped going to school last year because her parents felt the government school in the neighbourhood was of such poor quality that she was better off at home.
“Government schools provide free education but what is the point of doing so when they fail to provide a good school environment?” her father asked, and rightfully so. The teachers at Aliya’s school were hardly qualified for the job so the poor man saw little use in sending her little one to get educated.
Realising the poor quality of public education, Think Basic Education for Everyone (BEE) decided to improve the condition of government schools. Since the programme is affiliated with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the party decided to start this initiative in the constituency where it secured a win in the recent elections – NA-250 Defence and Clifton.
Garbage fills the side alley of Najeeb Shaheed City District Government Elementary School in Tekro Colony. PHOTO COURTESY: THINK BEE
“After PTI won the elections in NA-250, we initiated an education programme to promote literacy in the society,” explained Shoaib Jamil Iqbal, a team leader of Think BEE. A businessman by profession, Iqbal shared that the idea of the programme is to focus on government schools in NA-250 and improve them. “We have 42 schools on our to-do list, out of which one has already been completed.”
Team at work
“Education is a basic human right. Whether rich or poor, everybody must seek education,” said Dr Arif Alvi, PTI’s winning MNA from the constituency. The party wanted to “eliminate the difference between the rich and poor when dealing with education,” he explained. According to him, change can be attained when education is accessible to all.
With this motivation, Dr Alvi and his fellow elected representatives – MPAs Samar Ali Khan and Khurram Sher Zaman – monitor Iqbal and his team, comprising Farrah Rehman, a teacher, and students Malik Daniyal and Zayem Ali Khan.
Once the team chooses a school to work on, the rest of the project is carried out in three phases, Iqbal explained. The first step is renovation, followed by teacher training and then curriculum improvement. “We just completed with phase one at a government school in Tekri Colony,” Iqbal pointed out proudly.
Think BEE relies on volunteers, who are not paid for their work. “Our main sources of funds are donations and fund raisings.”
The vice-principal of Najeeb Shaheed City District Government Elementary School in Tekro Colony was glad about the Think BEE team’s makes regular visits. “They also distribute gifts and free stationery to the students,” said Mukhtar Fatima. Her school currently offers classes up to class eight but they are planning to offer classes up to Matric. “The girls come to school in the morning, while the boys come in the afternoon.”
Fatima has been serving at the school for the last 36 years and late salaries were her biggest issue with the job. “The teachers do receive teacher training from the government as well but it isn’t that comprehensive.”
Although education is free at the school, which provides the books also, Fatima suggested that the government should provide free school uniforms to the students as well. “Students come from very low-income families and if the government does not support them, many of them will stop coming to school,” she said.
The vice-principal told The Express Tribune that many of the students dropout from school when their families are unable to afford the expenses of their school uniform.
With only phase one of the Think BEE project complete, the students already find it a better place to study. “We used to sit on broken desks but now we have better furniture,” said Hira, a student of class eight.