Well folks, the good news to report is we’re about to start the second term of the Malala Educational Project later this month. The same 35 housemaids and children from rural areas will continue to learn reading and writing skills in English and Urdu. The school is fully funded until January.
Our second educational program, the computer school, is already under way, and currently on break for Ramadan after going strong for 3 weeks. 8 students are participating so far (6 boys, 2 girls), and they are learning the basics of computer operation, word processing, and how to access the internet. Connected & excited! They meet Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Below are some evaluation questions created by yours truly, the International Coordinator, that were completed by Project Director Anser Bhatti (The featured picture is a gift package sent to Seth by Anser and many of the other PAP members in Lahore!). These questions highlight some of the difficulties and joys that the first 6 months of this school brought to the organization. If you read on, you will discover that our community has been verbally and physically threatened on 3 separate occasions by religious extremists, who object that we allow girls to have free access to education. We will not be hindered by these threats. We will continue to teach children the value of reading and writing skills in a community setting, and let the goodness of our intention guide us and keep us safe.
A wonderful care package of shirts, pants, illustrations, and a traditional Pakistani dress sent to Seth as a thank you from PAP
1) Were the students comfortable being in an urban learning environment?
Yes they are comfortable in this environment because most of them were not getting education due to financial problems and most of the girls are kept in houses due to some strict Islamic concepts. They are comfortable as they are getting something to learn rather then staying at home working for their families . Now their families are proud and happy that they have a chance for a better life.
2) What methods did the teachers use to establish relationships with the children?
The teachers in our PAP school are basically the staff members of high school and teaching in some of leading schools in Lahore. For example, one teacher was my little brother’s English teacher at St. Anthony’s high school – which is a prestigious Catholic school in Lahore. They are very much friendly with the children and the children are also very much cooperative with the teachers. A relaxed, informal environment is provided for the students.
3) Was there a great degree in learning abilities between any of the students? If so, how was this addressed?
Yes! After the first six months of school we have seen some of the students are good in drawing some of them have beautiful hand writing, some of them have good learning skills. So once we are done with this computer school we will be planning to do some more for the kids.
4) How proficient are the students in reading after six months of schooling?
After getting the first six month schooling the have learnt a lot. They are very much interested to get some more schooling. That is what PAP is currently researching: opening up a regular school for them or to get them admitted in some low cost school and pay their fees. Maybe in the future we can set up a scholarship fund for them. Most students can now write a small essay on their favorite person – maybe around 7 lines in both English & Urdu. The 8-10 year-old children cannot do this as well as the older students. The housemaids (ages 18-25) can all read and write now.
5) In what manner did the community respond upon hearing about the creation of this project? How can we better involve them, to be an inspiration for the local Lahore region?
The people of the community are really glad that PAP had took the bold step and providing free education to the poor and needy. Some of the neighbors are working for PAP now as well. We hope to soon have articles about our school in the Lahore times, Daily times, and Pakistani Today.
6) What unforeseen problems or conflicts arose through the course of the semester, and how was it dealt with?
When PAP had started this work and people came to know that they are giving free education to female as well they indirectly gave some threats to PAP but we haven’t stopped because we are doing it for a noble cause and we are providing them education that they deserve. 6 months ago I was stopped after leaving a bus and 5 men in full Islamic clothing (very unusual on a weekday in Pakistan) told me what I was doing for the rural girls in school was wrong, took my money, and said I needed to “be careful”. I told me we are a benefit to the girls and cannot stop. This is my father’s dream and we have to keep carrying it on. They called me on the phone 3 weeks later. They said I have not stopped my work that is illegal to Islamic law, and that I needed to stop including girls in the school. We hired a security guard after that, and I think the men were from the NW Tribal Provinces.
When we have started this computer school too, we got a big threat that they will destroy our school but we do not fear them. We only fear by God and God knows we are doing it for good and will always protect PAP and their staff members by those religious extremists. What they mainly objected to was not the school, but us educating girls in the school.
7) What has been the response of the student’s families with regards to having their daughter, son, or mother receiving free education?
They are really happy and glad that some one is thinking about them , some one cares about them they are very thankful to PAP for arranging such kind of educational programs. Unfortunately, we started with 13 housemaids in the school, but only 6 graduated. We do not know why 7 of them decided to stop coming. We wonder if they were threatened by tribal people or by their families not accepting them getting an education. We will always provide education and those who want it know we are always open to them.