Giving village children a fighting chance
We can have virtual classes where someone sitting in Canada teaches women in the village a skill or an art.
I am from a village in rural Punjab, Pakistan. Like most other villages, my village lacks proper infrastructure. Poor people live in houses built with mud and only the rich live in huge mansions.
Children of the rich go to private schools in the city, but the poor parents cannot even afford the heavily subsidised government schools. They are left with no other choice but to educate their children in the village school.
Visiting my village as a child, I remember hearing about the experiences of students in the village school. As you might or might not know, schools in villages have a multi-grade teaching system. A multi-grade teaching system is where a single teacher would teach children of different grades ─ usually three or four grades.
However, there is only one teacher in my village’s school who teaches students from grade one to grade ten!
Poor parents in villages have no choice. Not having a choice means they either send or do not send their children to such schools. Talking to parents and children in the village, I realised these people saw education as a need and not as a want. I saw the children sitting on the ground for hours wanting to learn new things. I saw parents forcing the children to go to these schools.
Both the students and the parents saw education as the only thing that would result in better lives for them. Unfortunately, due to the unavailability of teachers, the unfriendly environment of schools and the lack of resources, a lot of children drop out after grade five to help their parents with other stuff.
Knowing how much students in my village want to know about the outside world and with an understanding of how education can change lives there; I have decided to use my education, exposure and experience in Toronto to take back something for them.
Most people in my village have not seen anything outside the village or they have only been to the nearest urban centre. So, naturally, when I go to visit them from Toronto, they cannot stop asking me questions about the world they might never be able to go to. For a while now, I tried to come up with something which would not require them to spend resources they do not have but at the same time be able to get what they want.
I found the answers in the internet.
I bought a projector to make it even more exciting.
I am going back to my village in December. This time, I am not going to be doing much talking. Instead, I will let the projector, hooked up onto the internet, show these children all they want to know about the world that is still alien to them. They are going to be shown a few visual documentaries and a couple of movies to get them excited about the prospects what they will have available to them.
The internet and projector cannot only be used to educate these children but can also help in training for women and men in the village. For example, we can have virtual classes where someone sitting in Canada or anywhere else in the world teaches women in the village a skill or an art. I believe all of us have a unique touch, a talent. Some of us are lucky enough to have an environment that is conducive and allows us to discover, realise and use our talents. Unfortunately, most of the times, these talents and special skills go unnoticed.
Poor children in rural areas could be great artists, great painters or even singers, but due to their upbringing they have not been able to self-reflect and evaluate the skills they have to determine what they are good at. When these children go to the village school, a person who does not care for them, their opinions or their talents, greets them.
A new, innovative, friendly, flexible, fascinating classroom for these children can change the way they perceive education. Human beings are the most important resource we have and we cannot let these children and their lives go to waste.
The potential is limitless. I am taking this classroom back to my village and hope for it to work successfully. If successful, it can become a role model for schools in other villages.
If that happens, thousands of lives will most definitely change.
PHOTO: AUN MAKEN
Follow Aun on Twitter @aunmkn