Monday January 30, 2023

From obscurity to soaring heights

January 02, 2016

The story of how a simple initiative of two IBA students and TCF has helped redefine futures 


This time two years ago, Imran Shaukat had been working at a machine repair shop in Khairabad Goth near Northern Bypass. But then, a phone call changed his life.

At the time, he was a second year student at the DJ Science Government College, working at the repair shop in the evenings for Rs2,000 a month to supplement his mother’s modest income.

The caller was Farheen Ghaffar, a student of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA). As Imran recalls, Farheen started off by telling him that she knew he had been an ace student in school and offered to help him study for admission to a prestigious university on a full scholarship.

“It is not just my life which has changed,” says Imran, now in the third semester of IBA’s computer science programme. “This opportunity has reshaped my family’s future too. My father remains ill most of the time, so it has been my mother who has toiled as a domestic worker all her life to feed me and my three siblings and keep a roof over our heads.”

A similar phone call, in March of 2015, to Mehreen Khan, a resident of Baldia Town No 9, resulted in the realisation of her dream of studying at one of the top-notch private universities of the country.

“I had attended an orientation session at IBA when I was in the eighth grade,” says Mehreen, who just secured admission in Habib University’s social development and policy programme on a full scholarship.

“Since then I had wanted to study at a university which could help me compete with others on a national level. Though I have a cousin who is doing a PhD in analytical chemistry from Karachi University, I am the first girl from my family to study at a top private university. My mother keeps telling that she will not marry me off. She wants me to get a job and stand on my own two feet.”


Fate's call

Hailing from a small town near Naushehro Feroze, Nadeem Hussain, knew very well the challenges a student from an underprivileged, remote area had to face in acquiring good quality higher education.

Having completed his matriculation from a school run by the The Citizens Foundation and part of its Alumni Development Programme, Nadeem came up with an idea to reach out to ace students and guide them for admission tests in prestigious universities.

“Though the education till matric is free, once the students graduate they don’t know how to deal with university admissions. So we wanted to offer them the best possible shot at quality education, provided that the universities agreed to grant them scholarships,” he said. “We don’t have any funds. All we have are IBA students volunteering their time and books.”

He presented the idea to TCF which resulted in the formation of its Alumni Development Programme at the beginning of 2014. The director of his alma mater, Dr Ishrat Hussain, generously offered his patronage for the project.

“I felt that good universities were becoming saturated with students from privileged backgrounds, which has created a gap between graduates and the society they intend to serve and work for,” said Dr Hussain said while talking to The News.

“On the other hand, thousands of talented kids from underprivileged areas are left behind because of an incompetent assessment system which doesn’t allow them to compete with the best. So this was a chance to bring these kids at par with the best and give them an opportunity to redefine their lives.”

The TCF runs around 50 schools in Karachi alone where every year around 2,000 students complete their matriculation and more than 800 achieve A and A+ grades. Nadeem and Farheen teamed up as TCF Ambassadors at IBA and began calling up students who had done their matric from TCF schools with flying colours.

They offered the students free preparatory classes at the IBA campus in Karachi University for the entrance test, getting their friends and classmates to donate preparation guides and time to help the students prepare around 20 TCF students to come to IBA and study.

“I had a lot of trouble with math and English,” said Imran, who was the first ADP success and now leads the TCF Ambassadors team at IBA. “My admission test for BBA didn’t go so well and I failed. But I kept studying and a month later I sat the entrance for the IBA’s computer science programme. Now, I am in my third semester.”


The sky is the limit

“If at this time last year, you had come and talked to me about IBA, I would not have had a clue!” says Imran, smiling as he reminisces about the past. “I didn’t even know that there were careers beyond engineering and medicine.”

In the programme’s first year, 2014, TCF Ambassadors facilitated the admission of two students, including Imran, in the IBA with full scholarship.

In 2015, four TCF alumni were admitted to IBA while five were accepted at Habib University on 100 percent scholarships. After Habib University, the team is now looking to expand to other prestigious varsities, including Aga Khan, NUST and LUMS with help from other TCF alumni.

Imran, too, donates his time and energy to teach other high achievers like him and hopes to lead the TCF Ambassadors at his varsity by setting a good example. Under him, at present, the TCF Ambassadors/ADP team have engaged around 50 students in 2015.

“Students from underprivileged backgrounds have much greater motivation to succeed as compared to those who haven’t faced much adversity in life,” remarked Dr Hussain. “This is important because when they are provided opportunities, it doesn’t only offer them a chance to change their own lives, but also that of their families. Also, they serve as role models for other children in their areas who then aspire to be like them.”

That cannot be more true for Imran, whose brother is now about to complete his matriculation. “I want to engage him beforehand so he is better prepared for higher studies,” he shared. “By next year, I am hoping to develop a computing programme and then I plan to do my masters from either MIT or Stanford.”