Zulfiqar Ali Chachar’s extraordinary rise from selling kulfis on the street, to graduating from IBA and attempting to build the first school in his remote village in interior Sindh, is a stunning testament to the power of education. At a time when Pakistani school children are butchered in their own class rooms by extremists who’re afraid of the power of the pen, it’s important to remind ourselves how education transforms individual lives, families and communities.
Every time an educational institute is under attack, our media is quick to descend and dissect the story, as is its job. But it’s also our job to highlight those people and organizations that are working to correct the wrongs and improve the education system in the country. For perspective, TCF has established over 1,000 purpose-built school units nationwide with an enrolment of 165,000 students. TCF is a non-profit organization set up in 1995 by a group of ordinary citizens just like us, but they wanted to bring about positive social change through education. And what a change they’re triggering by educating young boys and girls like Zulfiqar across Pakistan.
Pakistan’s traditional media and social media influencers need to use their 1,000 watt spotlight to shine a light on positive education stories like Zulfiqar. Let me use an analogy from development circles to make this point. Suppose you know how to swim and you see a man drowning in a river near you. You’re likely to jump and save the man. A few minutes later, you see another man drowning. You’ll jump back in to save him too. Then you see a third man drowning. At this point, you might think to yourself, is there a shipwreck or some problem upstream in the river which is causing this? Should I call for more help to solve the root cause or save the drowning man in front of me? One of my constructive critiques of TCF is that it focuses mostly on saving drowning (underprivileged and illiterate) children. This is great and we as the general public should support this cause. But TCF — and the media — also need to draw more attention to the story of drowning/illiterate children to secure more help and fix the root causes structurally. The media doesn’t traditionally help because stories like these don’t sell. And organizations like TCF don’t make advocacy a core part of their strategy because they want to focus on their strengths: building schools and educating children. How do we solve this dilemma?
It starts with the realization that Pakistan desperately needs everyday heroes to restore confidence in ourselves, otherwise the tsunami of bad news that we’re regularly exposed to in the media will make us negative and cynical beyond hope. Organizations like TCF can make advocacy a bigger priority because that will enable us to fix the root causes of the malaise in education. Beyond saving the drowning children in front of us, we will also serve as catalysts to encourage others (parents, governments, businesses) to fix the root causes. Meanwhile, the media needs to highlight stories of drowning children, which organizations like TCF have saved. These dramatic, extraordinary stories of families being transformed through education need to be heard as much as the voices of those who want to sow fear in schoolchildren and extinguish their hunger to learn and grow. To learn more about how you can help TCF, please visit http://www.tcf.org.pk/
Extraordinary Pakistanis seeks to find and share inspirational stories about everyday Pakistani heroes (if you know someone who should be profiled, send us a tweet @Mbilallakhani). If we don’t share these stories about Pakistan, no one else will.