Education for all: How a Pakistani-Canadian is transforming lives in Karachi

Education for all: How a Pakistani-Canadian is transforming lives in Karachi

April 2, 2018

Living in a country that has an education system weakened to the core and a literacy rate that is in shambles, it only makes one wonder the extent of neglect that the state’s decision-makers have invested towards the development of the institution. Despite the fact that access to affordable education remains one of the primary, basic human rights that every citizen is entitled to, the country’s deteriorating conditions make it hard to believe that things will turn around any time soon.

The bitter reality is, in fact, that the number of children out of school in Pakistan is constantly rising and our literacy rate has declined from 60% to 58% according to the recent economic survey of Pakistan. Not only this, only a meagre 2% of the country’s annual budget is allocated to the education sector by the government. State-run schools are no less than a nightmare, lacking even the most necessary of facilities and ghost schools are another menace.

Haroon Khan - founder and chairman of the Farabi School 

However, there is light at the end of every tunnel!

And just when the thought of our nation never being be able to rise from the deep dungeons of illiteracy started to settle in my heart, I had the privilege of visiting the Farabi Government Primary School - run by a Pakistani-Canadian, Haroon Khan - in Karachi’s Muslimabad area. The experience of visiting the school was a priceless one as it not only gave way to an enriching and learning opportunity but also had me in deep thought over the fact that our country is not yet deprived of people who know the value of a strong nation that can only rest on the foundation of a well-educated youth.

Talking to The News, Haroon Khan revealed how he was initially inspired to bring a positive change in the society and play his part in producing intellectual minds that are aptly-suited to compete with this modern, rapidly-changing, technology-driven world.

Khan, who immigrated to Canada in the 70s, is a realtor in Toronto. To fulfill his life-long dream of doing something for his homeland, he established Zafar Sultan Memorial Trust under which the school was adopted. Since then, he has devoted himself to building the institution.

“I saw some children working on the streets and it struck me then that the children who should be studying in schools are forced to fend for themselves at such a tender age. I decided to do something for these underprivileged children. In 2005, I adopted the Farabi School and since then have been financing it proudly. We have come a long way; from being a ghost school in the beginning to now a two-campus structure,” Haroon Khan shared.

School's exterior as seen from the outside 

He added, “We provide free of cost, quality education to the children who deserve a safe, secure and a very bright future ahead. At the Farabi School, books, syllabus and uniforms are given absolutely free of charge to the deserving young ones.”

At present there are some 525 children enrolled at the school who are receiving education from a staff of 20-22 teachers.

Iqbal Ahmed, the principal/administrator of the school, further shared how he designs the school’s curriculum to provide education that is at par with other schools in the country.

“We have incorporated Oxford University Press novels and books in our curricula and we divide the syllabus according to two terms. The lesson plan is then devised weekly and then on a daily basis,” he stated.

“I have been in the education sector for as long as I can remember. I have performed duties as the principal of a private school for twelve years before being entrusted with the responsibility of heading the Farabi School. The experiences of both are obviously poles apart, with state-run schools in a dilapidated condition, as you might know already. But our school is one such exemplary school that is dedicated sincerely to impart education to the ones who cannot afford it,” added Iqbal Ahmed.

It was only last year that the Farabi School saw its first batch of Matriculation students graduate from their institution.

“We had all A*s, As and Bs and not a single student scored less than this. These Farabi graduates are now studying in the city’s top colleges; DJ Science College, Adamjee and Women’s College and that makes me immensely proud,” boasted Haroon Khan.

And it is no denying the fact that when interviewed the students exuded an impressive level of confidence and poise.

“I belong to a poor family as my father works at a local sweets’ shop. However, he had a vision of seeing me acquire quality education. His belief, coupled with the hard work that my teachers have put in, has brought me this far. I can know confidently speak to anyone,” shared Ali, a Farabian.

Ali - a proud Farabian - aspires to join Pakistan Air Force

“We seek pride in the fact that our school does not follow the ideology of rote learning or cheating. We tell our students to undertake examinations with whatever knowledge they have,” Gulshan Ara, a secondary-level science teacher said.

The students, The News interviewed, at the school aspire to become highly-educated and successful individuals, with even girls aiming to join the armed forces, while others having a budding passion to become a part of the media industry.

Building upon these shared ambitions, the school’s campus is equipped with modern physics and chemistry labs, a high-tech computer lab and even an auditorium, to hone the potential of its pupils.

School's chemistry lab having modern apparatus