We’re in the midst of a big fundraising campaign to restart our Malala Educational Project. The school was closed three years ago due to threats from religious extremists.
A Free Literacy & Arts School for rural children and underprivileged female housemaids in Lahore, Pakistan, inspired by the story of Malala Yousafzai.
Young girls in rural Pakistan face a difficult life. They live in an environment where international agencies estimate only 1 out of 10 of their female companions are literate, and about half of all children stay home from school to help their family work or take care of younger siblings. This is a panorama of life the countryside, whether it be in the Indus River plains to the West, or the unforgiving Hindu Kush mountains in the North.
A variety of limiting factors contribute to this problem for girls: feudal, patriarchal societal structures, expectations and stereotyping in gender roles, traditional systems maintained by a public / private divide, and an absence of appropriate responses to alleviate the crisis. The amount of work expected from children in poorer and larger families is substantially heavier than in more well-to-do households, and so work interferes with their ability to study.
Worse yet, around 60% of girls are forbidden to walk to school alone and some are forbidden to receive any education due to religious restrictions. This arises out of a mixing together of the barbaric Pashtunwali code of ethics combined with the most conservative forms of Sharia law, taken from the Qur’an and Hadith. Many Westerners would be surprised to hear that, taken on its own, many Pakistani women of college age would prefer to live under Sharia law than the current laws of the government. This is because the anti-woman, Sharia law that we hear about in the media has been severely muddled with the Pashtunwali, which includes an archaic system of gender roles created during prehistoric times.
The majority faith, Islam, like all religions, encourages both genders to receive an education. While males have an advantage in educational access, around 30% of all Pakistani males of literate age (that’s 24 million people over the age of 10) still cannot read or write.
HOW WE’RE HELPING
The Malala Educational Project was conceived by Mariam Harold, sister to Peace Ambassadors Pakistan’s founder, after she dreamt of her brother Inderias Bhatti (who had recently passed away) teaching children how to read in a brilliantly white room. Mariam, in addition to the Bhatti family who form the organizational core of PAP, has dedicated her life to make this school a realization.
We can proudly announce that, starting in October 2012, a school for 40 students, composed of children, predominantly female, living in the countryside and female housemaids, opened in Lahore. The children all lived in a small rural community South of Lahore. Much of our budget was generously donated by the family of Dennis Brown and members of their Unitarian Universalist church, the Follen Church in Lexington, Ma. Thank you Dennis! We even added a computer school as our part of our 2nd semester curriculum to teach the students valuable IT skills so they could feel competent finding quality work when they graduated high school.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL
We hired 5 female teachers to teach basic reading and writing skills in Urdu and English, in addition to mathematics and art, to the children, who receive 4 hours of school five times a week. Girls and boys were taught in one classroom together.
In addition, we provided education to female housemaids. These young women were forced to drop out of school at a young age so they could support their families, albeit at poverty wages, and so were never taught to read and write. They received instruction for an hour a day in social issues and current events, in addition to reading and writing in both languages. Many families were uncomfortable with their daughters being taught by male teachers, which is why having female instructors is so important. These students came from both Christian & Muslim backgrounds, and get along just fine.
Days began with the children being picked up by the six housemaids on the outskirts of Lahore, and they drive together to the classroom hall. We can say with confidence that the children absolutely loved going to school, and we loved having them around!
The housemaids attended school for two hours a day, and the children attend for four. There were weekly reports, quarterly expense reports, semester reviews, a field trip, a Christmas play put on by the children, and a celebration dinner at the end of each year.
The school schedule has been Monday-Friday from 10 AM – 2 PM, with plans already in place for adding a traditional Pakistani music school from 4-6 PM (call it a stretch goal)!
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
Unfortunately, due to the extremely volatile understanding of educating girls in Pakistan, the school was threatened by religious extremists, and had to be closed down due for safety purposes, back in 2013. BUT we now have a comprehensive plan in place to restart our Malala Educational Project for rural children and housemaids in a safe and secure environment, inside a guarded housing community, and with a security guard posted outside. The new location would be conveniently located in the same compound as where the PAP directors live. The curriculum, students (35), and teachers (5) will all be the same from when our school was active. We’re hoping to start the school after the New Year.
BUDGET (for one year)
Two Bedroom Apartment (classroom hall)
300 * 12 =
Security Deposit (refundable)
Electricity bill (one year)
200 * 12 =
Water and gas (one year)
60 * 12 =
(Power outages are rampant in Pakistan)
(Summer temperatures in Lahore can approach 50 °C!)
Chairs for the students
12 * 15 =
One TV Monitor 150$
Textbooks, stationary, water cooler, school furniture
Pay for 1 Teacher (one month)
Pay for 5 teachers (one month)
Pay for 5 teachers (one year)
281 x 12 =
Security Guard (one year)
150 * 12 =
US $ PAK RUPEES