Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Shahveez wins inaugural ludo championship

Forty-two contestants from a wide age-bracket participated in the event. PHOTO: NEFER SEHGAL / EXPRESS
KARACHI: Fourteen-year-old Shahveez Javeri outplayed 41 other contestants to come out victorious at the inaugural Royal Rodale Ludo Tournament yesterday.
Javeri, who remained unbeaten in the tournament, beat Uzair Sajjid in the final. Earlier, Javeri had defeated the 30-year-old Shaheryar Zakir to book a place against Sajjid. In the third place playoff match Faizan Ahmed outplayed Zakir.
The tournament, played on a knockout basis, featured 21 games on 12 tables. Javeri was delighted at winning the tournament and believed that luck had favoured him.
“It’s awesome, I knew I would win because luck was on my side today,” Javeri told The Express Tribune. “I play ludo regularly and I thought taking part in the event could just be another way of enjoying one of my favourite board games. That’s why I entered the competition.”
According to the tournament organiser and the Royal Rodale event manager Mohammad Haroon, the idea behind holding a ludo championship was to bring people together to enjoy a game that is played all over the country.
“Ludo is a game that everyone plays while growing up and it gives a lot of enjoyment,” said Haroon. “I researched to see if any ludo tournaments happen in the country regularly and found that there is only one tournament that had taken place last year. As ludo is a popular board game, we decided to hold a tournament for it but never expected so many people to participate in it. We’re now thinking about making the event a regular feature at the club.”
- Express Tribune

Monday, 12 December 2011

11-year-old Sitara Akbar sets world record in O-level

Sitara Akbar. (Photo: Web)
By Hammad Suriya

CHINIOT: 11 year old resident of Chiniot, Sitara Akbar set a world record by passing O-level Mathematics, Science and English. This is not the first time that she had amazed everyone with her intelligence. She had passed O-level Chemistry in nine years and O-level at the age of 10, striking a record in Pakistan.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Positive Pakistani: Call of duty

From a primary school in Lyari to Yale’s School of Medicine, Dr Junaid Razzak’s story is an inspiring one.

Think of an ambulance and the first image that comes to mind is a white Suzuki Bolan painted with a red cross. No wonder then that the Aman Foundation’s sleek, bright yellow ambulances stand out among the fume-spewing buses, noisy rickshaws, and death-defying motorcyclists on Karachi’s chaotic roads.
You must often have spotted one tearing through unrelenting traffic, rushing the sick and injured to a hospital. In a city rife with medical emergencies, where target killings, bomb blasts and road accidents are a daily occurrence, these vehicles save many precious lives. How this network of ambulances was established is an inspiring story which starts with an ambitious boy, Junaid Razzak, who rose from humble origins.

Today, Razzak is a renowned emergency medicine expert and the executive director of the Aman Foundation. He started his schooling at a humble primary school in Lyari, completing his secondary education from Nasira School in Depot Lines. Not one to be held back, the hard-working student subsequently attended Adamjee Science College where his impressive grades and unbounded enthusiasm won him a scholarship at the prestigious Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), the top private medical institution in the country.

It was in his fourth year of medical school that Razzak discovered his true calling: emergency medicine. “Fourth year is the time when you choose your field. Most of my fellow students went abroad for internships, but I stayed back and spent time in the emergency room at AKUH,” he says.
It was time well spent. When he saw the sorry state of emergency medicine, Razzak was driven to bring about changes in the field. He graduated from AKUH in 1994, but his interest in emergency medicine only grew.
In collaboration with the Edhi Ambulance Service, an arm of the philanthropic Edhi organisation and the largest volunteer ambulance network in the world, he researched and analysed road traffic injuries and emergency cases. Edhi had a mountain of documentation for every call and every case it had handled in the last two decades. The downside? None of it was digitised, so he spent days sifting through it manually.
The experience stayed with him, and the data revealed a disturbing pattern. Gruesome injuries, often suffered by the poorest members of society, were often improperly handled by well-meaning doctors, simply because of a lack of know-how. These mistakes frequently, and literally, led to the loss of life and limb.
Yet, Razzak soon realised that he needed more professional training and specialisation courses before he could progress further. He sat for the US Medical Licensing Exams (MLE) and had observations at the Beth Israel Medical Centre, New York, and the Yale-New Haven Hospital, Connecticut. In 1996, his residency and training programme at Yale University’s School of Medicine started and in 1999, he was given the ‘Best Trainee’ award by the State of Connecticut.
On the personal front, Yale was also important for the doctor since he met his future wife there. Following graduation, the two stayed in the US for a few years, always looking forward to the time when they would return home. “The plan was always to come back,” says Razzak. “That’s why we never bought a house, never completely settled in.”
Before they could come back, Razzak did his PhD in Public Health at the world-renowned Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, where he focused on the use of ambulance data for monitoring road traffic accidents. Finally, in 2005, the studious boy from Kharadar returned to Pakistan as a successful, qualified expert in emergency medicine.
He joined his alma mater, AKUH as a faculty member and went on to successfully found Pakistan’s first emergency medicine service (EMS) training programme at the university. “There were many doctors who were awarded their degrees without ever administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as it wasn’t a requirement,” he reveals.
This changed when his EMS programme became a mandatory rotation that all students had to serve. Subsequently, Razzak went on to build and head a new emergency department. Yet, the battle was just half won. Students in the new department faced a dilemma, similar to the one Razzak had as a student. They were required to go to the United Kingdom to sit for their exam, otherwise they would not be considered qualified.
“We had trainees, but no exams here,” he says. “If these students couldn’t sit for their exams here, they weren’t qualified on paper and therefore couldn’t be hired as consultants.”
Determined to remove, for others, the hurdles that he himself had crossed only after many toils, Razzak collaborated with the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) to organise a curriculum for the specialised field. The first batch for this course was enrolled last year.  Now students wanting to specialise in emergency medicine will be able to obtain certification in their chosen field, without having to travel abroad.
“I consider this a major achievement,” he says with a smile. “I don’t think there is any country that requires this specialisation more than us, with all the natural disasters, deteriorating law and order situation and terrorist attacks that we face.”
At just 40, this medical expert has achieved what most people can only dream of in a lifetime, but he still has big plans for the future. Razzak will shortly launch a tele-health service for Aman Foundation and dreams of building a world-class health facility in Pakistan. It seems that nothing is impossible for this inspirational doctor.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

LUMS professor receives Google Faculty Research Award

Dr Umar Saif has been recognised by Google for his research work funded by the US State Department. PHOTO: MIT

Dr Umar Saif, the Associate Professor for Computer Science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), who was receognised by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) earlier this year, has been awarded the prestigious Google Faculty Research Award.
A statement released on LUMS website read that Dr Saif had been awarded for his research work, funded by the US State Department.
The Google Faculty award aims to provide funding to full-time faculty working on research in areas of mutual interest with Google. The second round of awards saw funding of 119 awards across 21 different focus areas for a total of six million dollars. The subject areas that received the highest level of support this time were systems and infrastructure, human-computer interaction, social and mobile. In addition, 24% of the funding was awarded to universities outside the US.
The US$ 100,000 Google Faculty Research Award makes Dr Saif the first faculty member in a Pakistani university to receive the competitive grant, awarded for the low-cost rural telephony systems that he has been working on for the past three years along with colleagues at UC Berkeley.
His collaborators on the research, in the Systems and Infrastructure category, include Tapan Parikh, Assistant Professor at the iSchool at UC Berkeley.
Dr Saif had earlier in the year been recognised by the MIT Technology Review as one of their top 35 innovators (TR35) for 2011. The list honours technologies for the developing-world which are being used by millions of people. He was awarded for the applications BitMate – that enhances the speed of Internet in the developing-world using peer-to-peer technology, and SMSall.pk – Pakistan’s largest SMS Social Network which has sent close to 4 billion SMS for users in Pakistan.
Dr Saif is currently on leave from LUMS, working as the Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB).


Friday, 2 December 2011

Young achiever: 16-year-old develops “Multi Texter” for Android smart phones

Sherjil has also developed other applications, which include an Urdu writing application. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, without any glasses or a gadget in his hand, Sherjeel Shabih, does not, at all, look like a stereotypical technology geek.  But at only 16 years, he has developed a bulk text messaging application for Android smart phones.
The application, “Multi Texter”, enables sending a bulk of text messages to multiple contacts at once. The user does not have to go back to the inbox and select each message to forward individually. It is available on the Android application market for free.
“I developed the software in only three weeks in July,” beamed Sherjil. “No other application on Android phones provide this option.” He shows off the application on his HTC phone.
According to Sherjil, he and his friends always found forwarding messages individually a big hassle. “But now, we simply select the messages and send it to multiple contacts at the same time.”
The application also has other features. It can be used to search messages by its subject or the sender’s name, just like email. One can also save custom messages, edit and then resend them. The unsent messages can also be viewed. But according to its developer, the application can also be misused to send “SMS bombs”.
Sherjil said that he paid $25 to upload the application. But it is free for the users. So far 2,860 people downloaded Multi Texter, most of them in the US.
“Just as kids love to watch television I love to make programmes,” said the young application developer. “While others might find programming difficult and dull, for me it is a hobby.”
Sherjil was only a year-and-a-half-old when he got his V-tech, a child’s laptop. His love for technology kept growing and he moved on to basic programming on his V-tech when he was only eight. He developed websites and internet application before moving on to Windows programming.  In his short 16 years, Sherjil has also developed other applications, which include an Urdu writing application. During the semi final of Pakistan and India during the last World Cup he developed an application for sending the words “Out, four and sixer” with a single key, he added.
Strangely, the teenager never sought professional help. “Every programming language has resources and code samples which are available on the internet,” he said. “They were my only tutors.”
While Sherjil sends a good amount of time on his laptop and phone, he makes sure his studies are not neglected. He loves to dance hip-hop and play the African drums, something he picked up from his early life in Ivory Coast, where his father was stationed.
His mother said that she was proud of her “genius” child.  “He’s an all-rounder,” she said.  Though I don’t understand much about computers and phones, whatever he does makes me very happy.”
Sherjil is indeed a brilliant programmer but he does not want to pursue it as a career. “I want to do a PhD in nanotechnology.” But for now, he said, he will keep on making applications for the benefit of people.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2011. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Kashif Abbasi & Meher Bokhari got married

Islamabad: Famous TV anchors Kashif Abbasi and Mehr Bokhari got married here on November 15, 2011. Though they did not make it public as it was a purely family event.
Family friends of Kashif Abbasi revealed that the Kazim Naqvi performed the Nikah in the presence of friends and relatives.
Kashif and Mehr are popular TV anchors. Kashif started his career with newspaper and now lead the ARY news channel while Mehr started her career with Samaa TV and recently switched to Dunya TV.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Student Biryani goes global

It won’t be long before you will be ordering it in the US as well.

KARACHI: Consistent taste and “word of mouth” is what has taken Student Biryani, a brand of Café Student, from a small roadside vendor to one of Pakistan’s fastest growing franchise networks. The Karachi-based food outlet – after attracting notable traffic in Dubai – now wants to test North American and European markets; extend its Gulf network through global franchising.
Established by Haji Muhammad Ali in 1969, the eatery – a favourite biryani restaurant for most, if not all, Karachiites – with a 15% return rate, continues to expand disregarding investors concerns about energy crises and poor law and order.
Student Biryani’s network is spread over 26 outlets (12 branches and 14 franchise restaurants) in Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Dubai. It is adding one more outlet – a takeaway restaurant – in Boat Basin, Karachi this December while also finalising the launch of its first restaurant in Islamabad, to be operational early next year.
There is no better market for the business than Pakistan, Ali’s son and company director, Muhammad Arif believes. “There are more opportunities than difficulties. Pakistan is an agriculture-based economy,” he added, “ the ingredients are a lot cheaper here.”
There are days when sales are affected due to violence in the city, Arif said, but added that the business normally does great, especially on public holidays.
Arif’s father started the business – selling homemade biryani and a few other dishes – in Saddar, Karachi. He named it Cafe Student to attract students from a host of schools and colleges that were located in the area.
This worked well for him as his first customers were students and teachers who particularly liked his biryani, which dominated the business so much that it overshadowed Café’ Student, the official name.
Ali’s recipe for biryani is still the business secret for Café Student that associates its popularity partly to “the word of mouth” – publicity, as Arif puts it. The business has turned Ali’s recipe into a formula that’s centrally dispatched – mostly in the form of premixes– to all outlets to ensure that each place has the same taste, Arif said.
“We have a centrally-controlled supply chain,” Arif said, “we buy the same quality of rice to make sure the taste doesn’t change,” he added.
The love for biryani coupled with consistent taste helped the business grow significantly over the last decade. It converted its head office in Saddar to a multi-storey restaurant serving 2,500 to 3,000 customers every day – the number includes takeaway, dining-in and home deliveries.
With a continuous expansion plan, the company is now considering franchise option to meet the increasing demand for the brand.
“Franchising is the easiest and fastest way to grow your business,” Arif said. “You don’t have to invest and yet your brand name and consumer-base grows while you get royalty,” he added.
Responding to a question Arif said, one needs to invest about Rs8 million to develop a 3,000-sqaure-feet restaurant – a standard size for the business – in Pakistan. There is tremendous opportunity for this business in Pakistan; one has to be patient because it grows slowly, he added.
The company has a 15 to 1 return rate, he said, but it can vary for branches depending upon the size of the unit. The return ratio for a takeaway unit, he explained, will be different from a dining-in restaurant.
The company already has 14 franchise restaurants in the country and more are in the pipeline. The story doesn’t end here; Student Biryani is also extending its customer-base in the Middle East.
“We are almost ready to open our first branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” Arif said, adding, “We have another branch in the pipeline for Sharjah; we will launch it soon.”
The majority of customers in Dubai are Indians, Arif said, he is, therefore, personally interested in entering the Indian market as well.
The company is in the final stages to give the go-ahead for three franchisees one each in the US, UK and Dubai. They are expected to launch their operations very soon, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2011.

Friday, 25 November 2011

PM announces NPA, cash for Swat girl

Malala Yousufzai

ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday announced cash award of Rs 500,000, besides the National Peace Award (NPA) for Swat student Malala Yousufzai. 
Malala Yousufzai, who is student of 8th class from Swat, had been nominated for International Peace Award in the category of children below 18 years. Keeping in view the educational brilliance of the student, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has announced the National Peace Award for the student and her family . 
The PM has also directed the cabinet to hold National Peace Awards every year for the children below 18 years who are working for the cause of education and peace.


Thursday, 24 November 2011

National Monument Museum opens

The newly inaugurated Pakistan National Monument Museum contains this sculpture of Quaid-i-Azam and Fatima Jinnah on a horse carriage. Photo: Muhammad Javaid

The National Monument Museum opened for public here at Shakarparian on Thursday. Conceptualised, designed and created by the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, Lok Virsa, the museum depicts the country’s history, struggle for freedom, emergence and development.
A large number of visitors including foreigners filled the museum on its first day. A group of 12 girls, students from Beaconhouse School System, presented a national song.
Khalid Javaid, Executive Director, Lok Virsa said, “The prime objective of this museum is to explain Pakistan in a historical perspective to the young and the old.”
The segments displayed in the museum include Indus Valley civilization, arrival of Islam and role of Sufism in the sub-continent, 1857 War of Independence, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Iqbal in Cordoba Mosque, Iqbals’s address in Allahabad, the Lahore Resolution, Gandhi – Jinnah talks, independence and migration 1947, Quaid as a lawyer, Quaid’s address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, Quaid and Iqbal’s galleries of relics, a display on freedom fighters and a segment on national achievements after independence.
The museum also has the facility of a reference library, documentation centre, audio visual archive and media centre to cater to the requirements of the visitors, in particular students, researchers, scholars, and writers.
Federal Secretary for Culture Moinul Islam Bukhari said, “Pakistan is a seat of the world’s oldest civilisations like Monejodaro, Harappa and Taxila. The culture of Pakistan has been immensely influenced by these civilizations.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2010.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Swat girl nominated for international peace prize

National honour Swat girl nominated for international peace prize Malala, 13, alone raised a voice for girls education during Taliban rule


Malala Yousufzai, 13, beat 93 contestants from 42 countries to be nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2011. The class 8 student became the first Pakistani to be nominated for the prize, and if selected, she will be given the award by Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu.

The prize is presented to a child with exceptional capabilities whose remarkable acts and thoughts have made a difference in countering problems that affect children around the world. The prize was first launched at the Nobel Peace Laureates’ Summit 2005 and was initiated by the Dutch Organisation KidsRights.

The other four nominated for the award are: Liza (17) from Palestine, Michaela (17) from South Africa, Nikolay (17) from Armenia and Winfred (14) from Uganda. One of the five nominees will be rewarded with the prize on November 21 (today) and will become the seventh child to get the prize.

Malala’s was nominated because she alone raised her voice for girls’ education during the mayhem in Swat, in which girls were not only banned from attending schools and colleges, but their schools were destroyed as well. She successfully used national and international media to let the world know about violations of their rights. She fought bravely for girls’ rights in the militancyhit Swat, focusing on their right to education.

Desmond Tutu, in a press release announcing the nominees, stated, “The five nominated children are very brave since they are fighting for children’s rights in their country every day, sometimes even in dangerous situations.

Children are the future, but often they are not heard, the Children’s Peace Prize gives a voice to these unheard voices.” Malala said, “I am very happy to be nominated along with four other great girls. I am particularly inspired by Michaela who, despite her physical disability, fights for the rights of children with disabilities.” She added that her nomination in the top five has “doubled her courage” as her cause is of great importance, “Irrespective of whether I win the prize I will continue my struggle. I hope to set up a vocational institute for the marginalised girls of this area so they can stand on their feet in the future.” When asked why she started her campaign for girls’ rights, she said that the mayhem in Swat had “a huge impact on my mind”.

“I could not stand such exploitations; I started my campaign with the help of media and forums, which, with the help of God, was successfully completed.” Malala said she wanted the rest of the world to stop terming the people of Swat as terrorists as they were very peaceful and loving people.
Malala credited her father Ziauddin Yousufzai and her teachers for supporting her in her cause.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

First Pakistani honoured with prestigious "World Technology Network award"

Dr. Athar Osama is the first Pakistani scholar honoured the WTN award. – Image Courtesy by WTN

KARACHI: Pakistani scholar Dr.Athar Osama has been awarded the prestigious World Technology Network (WTN) award and has also been elected as a fellow of the WTN. He is the first Pakistani who was honoured with the WTN award.
Osama was short-listed for the award as announced in a press release by WTN on September 5, 2011. WTN recognised www.Muslim-Science.com, founded by Osama as an agent of change and had been named as a finalist for the Science and Innovation Media Journalism category.

Osama received the award in a galaxy of luminaries and innovators from across the globe at the World Technology Summit in association with TIME, Fortune, CNN, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and MIT’s Technology Review.

The WTN awards are widely seen as “Oscars of Science and Technology.” The Previous WTN award winners include Al Gore (US former Vice President), Mohammad Yunus (founder of Grameen Bank), Mark Zuckurberg (Facebook founder), Larry Page (Google) and Tim Berners – Lee (Inventor of Internet).

The awards were distributed on October 25-26, 2011 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, USA.

Dr. Athar Osama speaking to the participants after receiving WTN award. – Image Courtesy by WTN

WTN selects the finalists through a peer reviewed process and a well established criteria. On individual bases, the awards are distributed in 20 categories such as arts, biotechnology, education, energy, entertainment, health, media and journalism and information technology. WTN also awards to the companies and organisations in10 different categories. The WTN awards have been presented since 2000. Prominent advisors and professionals are included in the selection panel of WTN awards.

“This year we are more eager than ever to pay tribute to the talent and innovation of our individual and corporate honorees,” said James P. Clark, Founder and Chairman of the World Technology Network.

Osama frequently writes about science, technology and innovation issues especially on Islamic countries. He is the director of Middle East and Asia for ANGLE Plc – a UK based firm for technology commercialisation and policy. He also works at RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA as a science and technology policy analyst.

Recently, he launched Muslim-Science.Com, an online journal discussing the issues of Science, Technology, Innovation and Policy mainly concerned with Muslim countries.

Osama did his Bachelors from the Pakistan Air force Academy and did his doctorate in public policy from Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Positive Pakistanis: A rupee for a life

Parveen Rao was discouraged from going to university — not only did she educate herself, she now makes sure that even the least privileged get a shot at an education.

The 45-minute drive from Parveen’s home next to the Expo Center to Khuda Ki Basti in Surjani Town is anything but pleasant, thanks to the traffic and bumpy, unpaved roads along the way. But that hasn’t stopped her from making the journey to Amal-e-Danish, better known as the One Rupee School every morning for the last 16 years.
Parveen Afshan Rao is perhaps one of the most charming and driven women I’ve met in my life. And today I was witnessing the results of her endeavours inside the four walls of her small school-building in one of the most neglected neighbourhoods of Karachi.
“It’s a long drive, but I chose the area because it was comparatively peaceful back then,” she explains as we make ourselves comfortable in her modest yet well-equipped office.  “I understood my limitations and knew I had to start on a small scale and this was the perfect place. When I asked the Katchi Abadi Association for a plot to open the school, they said that they would only consider my application once I had actually opened a school. They needed to make sure I wasn’t a con-woman trying to eat up their land!”
But when the people of Surjani Town heard about her proposal, more than 20 families offered their homes to get things started. “It was very moving… the families were so desperate to send their children to school that they were willing to offer their two-room homes for the purpose. That was when I knew I had come to the right place.”
Fortunately, the Katchi Abadi Association agreed to allot her a plot. She then brought the adjoining plot as well, adding more land later. “We started with just four rooms and now we’ve built more than 20!” Parveen beams.
But what’s the story behind the implausible one rupee fees? Surely the paltry sum cannot be enough to run the whole school, which even has a small computer lab with three or four running computers. “During the first few months, I had rounded up about a hundred children whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to school. I set the fee at Rs30 per month but when the parents started to pull their children out of school, I realised that those people couldn’t pay even that,” says Parveen. “I refused to turn it into a free school like the parents were urging me, so I finally decided to slash the fees by Rs29 and turn it into the One Rupee School.”
Parveen explained that the objective of the one rupee fee is to assure the students and their parents that they’re not getting an education for free. But since the fee was merely nominal, Parveen’s next objective was to raise finances. “This might sound strange, but I couldn’t possibly have gone around asking people to donate money so I could fulfil my dream!” She laughs matter-of-factly. “By the time I opened the school, I was a married woman. I was too proud to ask others for help!”
Eliminating the customary route of hunting for donations, Parveen and her husband started a small printing business, the profits from which they used to run the school. The printing business flourished and Parveen didn’t feel the need to look to anyone for help. . . until 2005, when things took a turn for the worse.
“For almost five years, the money I was making off my printing business was more than enough. Suddenly, as the number of students started increasing, the money started to fall dramatically short.”
By then, the school’s monthly expenses were easily crossing the hundred thousand mark and Parveen recalls herself slowly breaking down because of all the stress. “I was constantly short on personal money because I’ve always believed that once you take up a responsibility, you have to see it through. I knew that if things were ever to get seriously bad, I would probably cut down on my home supplies rather than delaying my teachers’ salaries.”
Things started to look up again when people who had heard about this initiative came forward to help out Parveen. An Indian gentleman who was quite impressed with the concept of the One Rupee School emailed Parveen and is now a regular donor.
And now that things have settled down, Parveen has finally found the time needed to expand her school. The first step was the One Rupee School for underprivileged students, the second dimension is Tez Raft, which provides accelerated tuition for children who were not able to go to school at the right time and are thus lagging behind. The third step is providing education for boys and girls who have reached the matriculation or intermediate level, but whose families want them to start earning a living. Parveen gives these children teaching jobs in the school while tutoring them in her free time and bearing the cost of any further study they want to undertake. “Whether they want to do matriculation or intermediate, bachelors or masters, I pay for their education if they agree to teach younger kids at the school, so that the tradition continues,” she explains.
But what Parveen is most excited about is the fourth step, “Taleem-e-Baalghan is all about educating the mothers of our students.”
Initially, the textbook for these women had been very similar to a ‘Qaida’ but some of the women actually stopped coming to school because their children were mocking them for studying a book they had studied years ago! Parveen then wrote ‘Meri Kitaab’ in a new, personalised format, which made it markedly different from the children’s ‘Qaida’.
“My own family had always been against me studying,” she recalls with a sniffle as she gives me a quick tour of the classrooms before I leave. “They didn’t want me to go to university because I was a free maid for them. They used to say that I could start next year. Next year, they’d say I should start next year… this went on for so long that suddenly I realised that everyone—including my siblings — had all done something or the other with their lives and I was still right there…without an education, doing housework!” And that’s exactly what has propelled this incredible woman to take on the challenge of bringing about a small change in whatever capacity she possesses.
Parveen is kind enough to see me off to the school’s gate. I’m so glad she does, because otherwise I would never have known that the 80-year-old woman entering the building with a book tightly clenched in her hands is in fact the school’s eldest student! Watching the woman rush to her class, I am overwhelmed with emotion. Parveen, however, is beaming ear to ear, “If crazy people like me continue to work for these people, I’m sure one day things will start to look up!”
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, October 30th, 2011.