KARACHI: What started off as a one-room school with 50 students in 1996 in Manzoor Colony, has grown into a network of 134 schools all over the country. The Baithak School Network, a flagship project of the Society of Educational Welfare (SEW), now caters to the primary education of more than 13,000 underprivileged children.
On Friday, a ceremony was held at Hotel Regent Plaza to pay a tribute to the volunteers, mostly women, who had made the project a huge success. “We came up with the idea when a couple of us, friends, were about to graduate from the University of Karachi,” said SEW president Tayyaba Atif. “After thinking about it in detail we decided to set up a school in a neighbourhood and teach for free.” She added that since there were no schools in the area then, Atif and her friends managed to gather around 50 students.
Although they had no intention of expanding the project, according to Atif, the positive feedback helped gather resources and finances. “In two years we successfully established 57 schools in areas where there were no government primary schools,” said Munazza Suharwardy, Atif’s colleague. “In 2000, we felt the need to register as a non-profit organisation and since then the SEW has sheltered this network of schools.”
According to SEW’s communication manager Noryn Ali, in order to make their community schools sustainable, they hire teachers from the low-income neighbourhoods the school is in.
The principal of one of the network’s schools, Zeenat Karim, was also there. While talking to The Express Tribune, she said that she was also from a low-income background but was made a part of this project by the principal of the school in Azeem Goth. She said that after she finished her primary education, the principal told her to go to the government secondary school and continue studying. Karim is now the principal of the same school where she studied as a primary school student.
The children performed a play on Allama Iqbal’s poem ‘Jugnoo’. The volunteers were presented with certificates of appreciations and awards by the chief guest, Arif Habib, the chairman of the Arif Habib Group.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2012.