32 teachers are crafting the future of more than 800 students in this deserted area but it was no less than any of the best schools of the region. Many students cover more than 10 kilometres to reach here. They leave home at about dawn.

By: Arshad Ali, Daily Times, Pakistan,

As we stepped into the school, students were busy in learning and teachers were imparting knowledge. A female principal was supervising the ongoing classes, overseeing all the activities. It was a small but an amazing world in remote area of union council Loni, in Daharki taluka in Ghotki Sindh.

This is a welfare school, New Foundation Public School, Village Adam Mahar, founded by Mr Abdul Hakeem Mahar back in 2011 in a bid to educate children of the village and the nearby areas, totally free of cost. 32 teachers are crafting the future of more than 800 students in this deserted area but it was no less than any of the best schools of the region. Many students cover more than 10 kilometres to reach here. They leave home at about dawn.

Classes are packed with students, verandas are immaculate and students look well combed in the only functional school of Loni, Daherki.

“We pay special attention to ethics and moral building of the students because they are not only the identity of the school but both of the aforementioned things are the basic need of any human being. We celebrate every occasion to enhance interfaith harmony; just few days back, we gifted pencils, notebooks and other stuff to our non-Muslim students on the eve of Holi, a colourful event of the Hindu religion. It costs nothing financially but enriches our young fellows with the emblem of love and care. We need good human beings instead of just educating academically” well confident Mrs Gulshan said, she severs as principal here.

Shaista Mai, the eldest and a shy student, sits in the last row of the class. Her six years were wasted due to unavailability of school. Shaista’s father is not happy with her enrolment in the school but her mother wants to see Shaista become the first lady doctor of this area. She not only supports her logistically but also comes with her daughter to the school, whenever her son is not home to accompany his sister.

Few days back, Khaliq Dad Mahar, 6th grade student, cleared the test and interview of Dr AQ Khan Scholarship program in Islamabad.

“Though we have co-teaching staff but still, here people don’t feel easy to send their daughters and sisters in co-education system. So, I decided to construct a separate building for girls’ education.”

“Yes it is a proud moment for me and my family; my mother and father have never been to Islamabad but soon I will go there God willing. Teachers informed us about this scholarship, mentored us and helped us go to Pano Aaqil district Sukkur for the test. I visited Sukkur for the first time. It’s a big city” Khaliq Dad shared his experience in an exciting manner. Now, he has become a role model for other students. Four other students of this school also qualified the test. This is how education makes a difference, brings talent from ignored areas to capitals and metropolitan cities.

“Before this school, I used to advise my relatives and friends to enrol their children in school, but they used to promise and never fulfil it. One possible reason behind this could be the unavailability of a functional school. Finally, I decided to start a school with a hut type class room, a teacher and few students. Now, we have around 20 class rooms and new building for girls section is complete. Though we have co-teaching staff but still, here people don’t feel easy to send their daughters and sisters in co-education system. So, I decided to construct a separate building for girls’ education. There is multimedia class room, library, science hall, computer lab and drawing hall. We have purchased desktop computers, science lab apparatus and other required furniture, whole credit goes to parents of the students and families of female teachers. They all are highly devoted people. It was an uphill task to find even a single female teacher in this area, but thanks to my friend Mr Sadoro Naz Keerio who worked hard and finally motivated five female teachers for our school and some others are in queue to join; a van has been purchased for female teaching staff and they are facilitated with pick and drop service without taking any transport charges. Still, 70% children of this area are out of school and heading towards a dark future. Last year we held a parents’ meeting and convinced them to pay attention towards their children’s education. We are trying every tool and technique to enrol the out of school children” Abdul Hakeem Mahar said.

Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) is also supporting us since 2017; they provide us trainings and furniture. Kudos to Madam Nahid Durani (Head of SEF), her efforts have encouraged us to grow and provided an impetus for doing more; without their support, the story would not have been the same. It’s a natural phenomenon. If you have determination, the whole universe will join you”, he said. Speaking in a low tone, Mr Abdul Hakeem Mahar shares credit with all his supporting hands.

New Foundation Public School has given the chance to dream and to explore what the world has to offer. Classes are well decorated with drawings and charts, reflection of a model school in this deserted area. Recently an IT teacher has been hired to foster skills of students in information and technology. A big playground is also available.

Mr Mahar conducts monthly meetings with teachers, encourages them and instructs male teachers to help newly appointed female teachers in order to create an exemplary environment. A Whatsapp group has been created for the communication among the staff members and the officials where progress and issues are shared and daily attendance sheet is shared with Mr Mahar, who is often busy at his office located near Hyderabad, some 415Km away from the school.

Mahar is 57 years of age but still enough young to sail over all the hurdles that come his way. He has constructed and provided adequate infrastructure and is now working on the quality of education. Teachers completed trainings in IBA Sukkur, arranged by Sindh Education Foundation. Mr Mahar who lived his childhood in hand to mouth situation is well settled now, offering everything to change future face and fate of his ancestral village.

We cry over terrorism and extremism, poverty and inflation, illiteracy and bad governance but we never spare time to think where from these elements are generated? Education is a simple tool to mitigate all these panaceas. Some people like Abdul Hakeem Mahar are working over it and millions of people, including us, are just waiting for a miracle to happen. Hope is a good thing to have but excessive daydreaming is dangerous. Let us think and act like Mr Mahar. That will be enough for us to bring the change we’ve been longing for.

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