Beyond security issues: A ‘wow’ moment and an inspiring video

For TCF success stories visit http://bit.ly/HLP1Fq

For TCF success stories visit http://bit.ly/HLP1Fq

There are many positive initiatives taking place in the field of education in Pakistan, but The Citizens Foundation is the largest and most visible, and probably also the most professionally run. Even if you drop in on a school without prior notice, you’ll find the same quality and care. Concerned citizens (not just Pakistanis) got together recently in Boston to form a chapter to support TCF. Yasmin’s experience that I’ve written about (below, published in The News and in TOI blogs) echoes my own, many years ago when I visited a TCF school. Scroll right down for an inspiring short video interview of a TCF graduate. More success stories hereUpdate: Harvard Pakistan Student Group is starting a summer internship programme with TCF, starting Summer 2014 (will update with details as soon as they’re finalised).

Yasmin Causer: Push for positive change

Yasmin Causer: Push for positive change

PERSONAL POLITICAL

Beyond security issues: A ‘wow’ moment

Beena Sarwar

Like many Pakistani expatriates, my old friend Yasmin Causer, a financial consultant in the Boston area feels an urgency about the need to do something, for her home country. This urgency has grown over the last few years, with the situation in Pakistan lurching from bad to worse, judging by media headlines.

Yasmin has clients who’d like to donate sizeable chunks of money to good causes. But when she suggests that they consider in organisations in Pakistan they say that Pakistan is ‘not safe enough’. They’d rather give to charities or NGOs in India.

And yet, there are so many positive things going on in Pakistan, so many initiatives by ordinary people striving to change things for the better in so many fields, including education.

Yasmin, whose parents live in Karachi, visits frequently. On one such visit, she visited a school set up by The Citizens Foundation (TCF) in Korangi, one of over 900 such schools around the country, including 55 in Balochistan since the organisation was founded in 1996.

The visit was a ‘wow’ moment for her, she told a gathering in Boston recently, at an event aimed at creating awareness about TCF. “The school is a red brick building, so clean and neat, the only pristine thing in those dirty surroundings. Outside there’s an open sewage canal, and garbage heaps. But the school is a very organised place, complete, with science and computer labs, art room, physical education areas, all very well thought through.”

A well organised information session

A well organised information session: Great volunteer spirit, TCF Boston, well done.

There was another ‘wow’ moment when she saw the school’s water filtration system. Every student gets a bottle of filtered water at school, and can take one home.

There was more. She learnt that the TCF curriculum is not just about academic subjects but includes hygiene, nutrition and health. “The building is bright, well lit and breezy. I saw eager, confident kids, eager to show what they knew – every single hand would shoot up when the teacher asked if they’d like to show the guests what they know. They were so obviously proud and happy to be there.”

Then there’s TCF’s big vision – it’s is not just about educating children from poor families and then leaving them in the lurch. There’s an internship programme involving several companies. TCF graduates have an enviable employment rate of about 80 per cent because they are actually ‘employable’ unlike many of those graduating from other schools, as Abdullah Jafari, a Houston-based almost full-time TCF volunteer puts it.

Abdullah Jafari: “TCF is not about personalities, and there is full financial transparency.”

Abdullah Jafari: “TCF is not about personalities, and there is full financial transparency.”

The academic results are superb – more than 93 per cent pass the matric exams in their first attempt, 78 per cent of them getting a B grade or higher. Seventy per cent of TCF graduates go on to college, a stunning achievement compared to the national percentile of 10 per cent.

Plus it’s well run. TCF administrative costs are just 8.9 per cent of the budget, most of which goes to paying the teachers, an all-female staff as part of a deliberate strategy to gain the trust of community members who may otherwise be reluctant to send their girls to school. TCF is in fact one of the largest employers of women in Pakistan, with even the corporate head office employing 70 per cent women.

TCF schools are purpose-built on land donated by the community – so the students are local and don’t have to travel miles to attend classes. Even the construction was donated, said Yasmin, and IBM donated the computers. And Karachi Electric Supply Corporation had provided electricity at subsidised rates.

And of course there are clean, functional toilets in each school. No mean achievement in a country where so many families refuse to send girls to school simply because 57 per cent of the schools have no toilets.

“TCF is not about personalities,” as Abdullah Jafari points out. “You’ll hardly see any of our founder members or others in the news. There’s a professional management team, and there is full financial transparency.”

For these qualities, TCF has received international recognition including from the Clinton Global Initiative 2011 and the Skoll Foundation Award – the Nobel of social entrepreneurship.

“Development is about security, ” says Prof. Adil Najam of Boston University, another TCF supporter in the area.
If that is so, it would include job security and national security.

TCF focuses on one kind of security, educating children and helping them to find employment later. It’s up to the government of Pakistan along with the security and law enforcing agencies to focus on the other.

p.s. See this brief, inspiring interview about his  personal experiences, and girls’ education, of TCF graduate Nadeem Hussain, now an IBA student, who visited the US this summer on a fellowship; video by TCF New Jersey Chapter volunteer, Shakil Anwar.

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