KARACHI: In a country where basic human rights like education are a privilege only a minor percent can attain, unsung hero Shamim Sayeed who owns and runs the Sayeed Alfalah Literacy Centre in the Darul Aman Society of Karachi, strives hard to provide quality education to hundreds and hundreds of poor children.
Almost 25 million children are currently out of school in Pakistan, the second highest rate in the world – with Sindh having the worst infrastructure for schools – while seven million of them have yet to receive some form of primary schooling. Pakistan’s literacy rate is also amongst the lowest in the world. These facts are a grim reminder of how children’s hopes for a better future are fading in the face of government failure to improve governance.
“The Sayeed Alfalah Literacy Centre is a charity school and I seek girls from katchi abadis who are not in schools and are, in fact, on the roads,” Sayeed tells me. The school provides basic education until Grade 10 to girls in Karachi, charging them Rs 30 for admission fee and a Rs 25 monthly fee. “This abysmal amount is just a formality to make their families realise that they are paying. I provide the girls free books and copies, and sell them the school uniform for a nominal amount. When it comes to purchasing white shoes to go with their uniforms, most of them can’t pay, so I try to help them out as much as I can,” Sayeed says.
The school is situated in an area where majority of residents hail from low-income families and most are from slums. The children’s parents work as housemaids, drivers and guards. Sayeed works with a team of five teachers, a headmistress and two part-time teachers, covering all the subjects taught in regular schools. Many women come and teach for free a few days a week at the school, as well. “A few of my students have graduated and started working with us. Others go on to work as engineers and tailors. We have had some great success stories,” she says.
The syllabus followed by the Sayeed Alfalah Literacy Centre is that of the Sindh Education Board, the system that is followed by all the government schools of Sindh. “I follow the Sindh Education Board in Urdu medium,” she says. “It’s easier and more practical for children coming from bastis to learn in Urdu. The kids are doing quite well. At the end of the day, after giving these children the opportunity to take control of their lives, it is very rewarding to see them blossom as individuals and have a promising future,” she smiles proudly.
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