“Kama to tum bohat sara lo gi lekin sadqa-e-jariya zindagi mein aik baar hi karo gi. Koshish kar kay dekho.” (You’ll eventually earn a lot, but it’s only once in a lifetime that you’ll get an opportunity to do some social/charity work. Try doing that.”
Imagine someone saying this to you. Imagine you following his advice. Imagine serving your community in this manner, going above and beyond, for more than a decade - and happily so!
That’s Ms Shaista Parveen, Principal of Adamjee Coastguard Campus of The Citizens Foundation, who considered this job even though it paid half of what she was already earning. She is now one of the “agents of positive change” of TCF that provides low-cost formal education to the underserved without any discrimination. What’s more, her school is one of the venues for Aagahi center in Karachi.
In 2017, TCF was awarded the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy for Aagahi Adult Literacy Programme to commemorate International Literacy Day. Parents avoid sending their children to schools due to unsafe school environment, lack of basic facilities and female teachers in schools and unaffordable fees. Aagahi (Urdu for “creating awareness”) is not only about strengthening home and school connection, but also transforming attitudes towards female education; more than 12,000 girls and women aged 12-65 years take admission annually.
A four-month phase is held twice a year at TCF schools. For 2018-19, TCF with the help of Bayer Pakistan, which covers around 25% of the overall funding need of the programme, plans to make literate 18,000 learners (17,000 women and 1,000 men) through Phase 24 (Aug - Dec 2018) and Phase 25 (Jan - May 2019). Assuming one learner per household and with an average household size of seven, a total of 126,000 individuals would in-directly benefit as a result of this intervention.
Talking to Us, Tehmina Naz, Help Desk Officer (Karachi), says: “We take our basic education for granted; the ability to read and write. On the other hand, these individuals have been deprived of a schooling experience. They can’t calculate their expenses, their earning or savings, even if their lives depend on it. The mathematics book, for instance, have stories to simplify concepts so they are able to grasp it easily. We have people from State Bank of Pakistan at our financial literary sessions to answer any queries, clear any misconceptions regarding interest rates, etc.”
The principal reach out to the locals and convince them to attend the school, giving them hope that by the end of a phase, they’ll at least be able to write their own name, read some magazine/newspaper or sign boards written in simple Urdu and English, and even do calculations. “Quite a few women have told me it’s been a life-changing experience for them. They are mothers who, inspired by their children studying at TCF schools, want to take admission,” she adds.
The trainings of the teachers are the most crucial part of the programme because they’ll be teaching adults from scratch. Only teachers who have served a certain period at the TCF schools are recruited for Aagahi programme since they’re already familiar with the Literate Pakistan books used at TCF and the admin knows their expertise level as well. They are trained to follow the provided syllabus and day-to-day lesson plans to ensure consistency in all classes. Each class has a maximum of 20 students; teachers are supposed to SMS their attendance every day.
Enabling housewives to gain literacy
“A neighbour told be about Baji Misbah, who runs an Aagahi center. She talked to Baji misbah that there is a girl who wants to study but faces resistance from her household. Baji Misbah visited my house and helped convince my father and brother. My mother also helped me and said she would accompany me and we will study together. Following my mother’s example, two of my aunts have also enrolled in Aagahi. People say they are proud of their sons but my mother says I am proud of my daughter who encouraged me to be literate.”
- Asma Bibi
Encouraging students to get formal education
“Aagahi is very useful for children in our community who have crossed the age limit for the normal admission cycle. We reach out to their parents and encourage them to join Aagahi so they can learn the basics well enough to join Class I or II and continue with their studies at school.”
- Maimoona Kausur, TCF Principal
Social inclusion, access to education and dignity of labour
“We reached out to various community women of different age groups and talked to them with patience and care, and emphasized that one can educate oneself at any point in life. Age is meaningless in this pursuit. They enrolled themselves in Aagahi and now take a keen interest in their children’s learning.”
- Iffat Zahra
Empowerment: social inclusion, self confidence and decision making
“Now that I can read and write, I can go the NADRA offices for Birth Form Registration. Earlier I felt confused and couldn’t follow the different procedures and requirements. They asked me for a thumbprint but I declined and proudly signed my name. I felt happy and proud.”
- Ramzana Amanat
Social inclusion and community harmony in diversity
“I visited houses in the community and invited them to join, urging that they can only help educate their children if they themselves know how to read and write. In my center, the girls and women speak three languages: Bengali, Pashto, and Katchi.”
- Asma Mohammad