Friday May 24, 2024

‘Do not leave your children to screens, get involved with them’

By Zubair Ashraf
May 21, 2021

At an age when children across the world prepare for preschool, a four-year-old Pakistani girl has made history by becoming the world’s “youngest” Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP).

Areesh Fatima cleared the Microsoft Office Specialist for Word 2016 programme by securing 831 marks out of a total of 1000 on April 16, according to her certificate signed by the technology company’s Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella.

Her assessment report reads that she scored 90 per cent in creating and managing documents, 86 per cent in creating tables and lists, 67 per cent in formatting texts, paragraphs and sections, 57 per cent in inserting and formatting graphic elements, and 50 per cent in creating and managing references.

She comes from a family in Gulshan-e-Iqbal in Karachi. Her father Usama Habib is a software consultant and her mother Saba Chaudhry is a clinical psychologist. The girl has two elder siblings: a brother and a sister.

“Her learning began when I started working from home at the start of the pandemic,” Habib, who works for a US-based IT company, said in an interview with The News over Zoom. “She would come to my desk and ask me questions about what I was doing.”

The father said: “I told her different things like using shortcut keys to cut, paste or save a file. I didn’t take her seriously then, but my wife later realised that Areesh could remember and apply things that I had told her. I was amazed to find this out.”

Discovering Areesh’s unusual ability, Saba started researching and found an option of Microsoft certification for formalising her youngest child’s learning. They thought of giving it a try and enrolled her with the exam provider Certiport.

A troika of learning was created: Usama would teach Areesh new things and Saba would make her practise them, while a friend also helped in her training. Eventually, the girl was ready to independently take the test, which was based on multiple-choice and scenario-based questions.

Usama credits his wife for Areesh’s achievement. He says that since he works in the US time zone — meaning that when it’s night in Pakistan, it’s morning there — Saba took the responsibility of keeping their children involved in learning-based activities.

“Basically, as a mother I wanted my children to spend most of their time off the screens of their tablets or laptops and instead in physical activities that could help nourish their minds and bodies,” said Saba.

The mother also said that most people call her “old school” for not letting her kids involve with technology. “They say my children may be left behind, but I know what’s good for my kids and what I can do to make it better.”

She said: “It’s highly important that parents spend time with their children, play with them and engage themselves in their learning activities. I left my career just to make sure that my children get the best of parenting.”

Maybe it was the devotion of her parents that prepared Areesh to make a name for herself at such a young age. She has received appreciation from the federal government, the Pakistan Army’s V Corps, as well as from the Arfa Karim Foundation.

The News awaits a response from Microsoft over Areesh’s title of “the youngest MCP” in the world. Pakistan already boasts a record in producing youngest technology prodigies, but never as young as her.