A 'tear' of hope: The girl who would put the education dept to shame

Published: November 11, 2014
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Aansoo Kolhi’s school is just a three-walled room that used to be a cattle pen, but its doors are open to boys and girls of all ages, including those who are physically and mentally impaired. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Aansoo Kolhi’s school is just a three-walled room that used to be a cattle pen, but its doors are open to boys and girls of all ages, including those who are physically and mentally impaired. PHOTO: EXPRESS

UMERKOT: 

At a time when thousands of able-bodied students are out of school across Sindh and hundreds of schools are serving as guesthouse for the influential, one physically impaired girl stands out as a beacon of hope, having converted her cattle pen into a school that has become overcrowded with students within a few months.

This young girl, Aansoo Kohli, has become a symbol of pride for her small village in Umerkot. Her school, the Kombho Mal Girls Primary School, imparts education to young boys and girls, even those who are physically and mentally impaired.

What Aansoo lacks in terms of resources, she more than makes up through her strong conviction and equally kind heart. When Neelam, a 25-year-old girl suffering from polio, landed on her doorstep, she not only gifted her a tricycle, but also enrolled her into the school. Neelam now proudly says she can read and write all the English alphabets.

“I intended to go to school but my legs did not support me,” said Neelam. “Madam Aansoo is educating me,” she added, saying that she had joined the school around 15 days ago. “The cycle she gave me has also given me the freedom to roam around the village.”

Armed with a small slate and chalks, Aansoo sits at the head of the three-walled room that acts as school. The students surround her chair; most of them sitting outside under the scorching sun as the small room cannot fit all of them.

These students are mostly from the Kohli community, negating the myth that children in these areas do not wish to get an education. Four of them, Roop Chand, Pehlaj, Neelam and Jamna, are from another village located around three kilometres away from this school. “We all travel to and from the school together,” said Pehlaj. “There is no school near our village and I want to learn with these children.” They do not have enough writing material, slates or even books. Even without these resources, these children have by now started reciting and writing complete sentences in both Sindhi and English.

Though Aansoo has no formal training in teaching special children, she aptly instructs the two mentally-impaired students who have enrolled in her school. “Where there is no school for the able children, where will these children with special needs go?” asked a villager, Dharmoon.

In the absence of such facilities, the students have devised their own mechanism that helps them learn. There are 109 students in morning shift and 120 students in the evening shift.

“The senior students help me to teach the junior ones,” she explained. They help each other memorise the lessons, often dividing themselves into groups to teach themselves. Those who reach late have to sit outside the makeshift room, making room with the cattle. The students share the few books and slates that are available to them. There is no playground and no time allocated for breaks. There is also no water cooler or toilets. “I understand these students need a washroom and proper arrangement for potable water, but I just don’t have the resources,” said Aansoo.

The newly-built school has been set up in Mina Ji Dhani village, located around 27 kilometres from the historical city of Umerkot. The village has existed for the last 100 years but Aansoo’s community, which is considered one of the most marginalised Hindu communities in Pakistan, has no right to claim ownership of the land.

Hardly two kilometres away from Aansoo’s school is a two-room structure marked as a girls’ primary school in Karo Pali. The school was never made functional after its construction around eight years ago.  Next to it is a half-built structure for a boys’ primary school that has been under construction for the last four years.

“This village has three buildings for around 50 students,” said a villager, Nabi Bux Pali, who plans to convert the girls’ school into a seminary. “We store chillies and pesticides in this school,” he disclosed. Pali told The Express Tribune that two teachers were appointed in the school, but the students are taught by a villager who is given a small fraction of their salaries.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Midhat
    Nov 12, 2014 - 1:23AM

    We need more people like her. they are the only hope we have in these dark times!
    @Sameer Mandhro is there a way to contact her?

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  • Nov 12, 2014 - 1:38AM

    Admirable! May Allah protect her from the Mullah Mafia!

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  • Rizwan
    Nov 12, 2014 - 2:15AM

    Incredible commitment. Keep it up brave girl. Shame officials, govt and teachers

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  • kulwant singh
    Nov 12, 2014 - 6:29AM

    It looks strange in 21st century because we have a High and Higher Secondary school in a radius of two kilometers and there is no village without a Primary school the childern up to Middle are provided mid day meals in the schools and books are also given free upto Matric. I salute Ansoo Kohli for her great work.

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  • Anon
    Nov 12, 2014 - 9:46AM

    Awesome work -keep it up

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  • Pity
    Nov 12, 2014 - 10:11AM

    What has the PPP done so far to help her cause or to promote education in other areas of Sindh?

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  • oBSERVER
    Nov 12, 2014 - 3:40PM

    The local waderas and rich should jump in the nearest gutter where they belong.But then only people with self respect would do such a thing!!!

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  • Jonaid
    Nov 12, 2014 - 4:10PM

    @Rizwan:
    The official, education department and government will never feel shame. Use some harsh words for them.

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  • naeem khan
    Nov 12, 2014 - 6:32PM

    bravo this is the real change these are the people who need support of media not those clowns on containers

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  • ak
    Nov 12, 2014 - 8:13PM

    thanks ET for highlighting this impressive story. wondering if there is anyway to help them financially.

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  • Shahid Ahmed
    Nov 12, 2014 - 9:18PM

    This, and other sad stories like this are widespread throughout Pakistan. We need to uproot the current axis of evil of Pakistan (Mollah, Wadeera, and Corrupt Political/Military personals) who are so against the humanity. GO SYSTEM GO.

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  • Hassan Aftab Bachani
    Nov 12, 2014 - 10:37PM

    Please arrange for some way to directly donate to her!!!! I would absoluletly love to donate to her. Individuals like her with their kind of passion need our coverage and attention in order to help achieve the kind of financial capital that is needed to truly bring about change.
    I am pleased that every now and again media gives such people coverage but that is not far enough!!! More needs be done!!!

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  • Shahid Ahmed
    Nov 13, 2014 - 3:05AM

    @Hassan Aftab Bachani. Kindly let me know as well if you come accross some way to fund her. Thanks for your support.

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  • Syed
    Nov 13, 2014 - 8:58AM

    The story of this young girl brought tears in my eyes and I feel ashamed that I have not done enough to my country.
    ET please provide her contact details so that we can help her more.
    Thanks for bringing this to us.

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  • Libra
    Nov 13, 2014 - 4:52PM

    @Mohammed Abbasi:

    May ALLAH protect them from Mullah mafia and Wadera mafia too.

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  • Dara Rajpar
    Nov 13, 2014 - 10:23PM

    Dear All,

    I do not how to reach out to her, yesterday i tried to visit her but could not make it her on school time.
    This is her phone number Aansu Kolhi 0340-3046331
    We have been tweeting to Govt officials, MNAs and even Malala Fund if they can help her.

    It is one of the most backward community.they need our help, Government is lazy, lousy & least concerned. I believe civil society has come forward to own such brave leaders of society.

    Regards

    Dara
    Karachi

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  • Nov 19, 2014 - 3:06PM

    We have started a collection for Aansoo’s school. A recce visit will be made this Saturday for needs assessment. Then required materials will be purchased with the total funds collected by November 30 and another trip will be made in first week December to deliver the materials to Aansoo. Anyone wishing to contribute should please the below site for further information
    http://bobbhai.com/ladies-gentlemen-meet-aansoo-kohli/

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