KARACHI: Hidden within the narrow streets of Azam Basti is the brainchild of an Institute of Business Administration (IBA) graduate - a school offering good quality education for underprivileged children.
"After completing my O' Levels I didn't know where to head in life," said IBA computer science graduate Haseeb Hussain Gandhi. So he started giving tuitions to pay his own fees and then decided to do something more meaningful for children whose parents could not afford good quality education.
In 2011, a group of 19 people started a non-profit organisation called Justuju. A year later, they started Justuju School with 30 children and have now expanded to 270 students taking classes in 12 rooms spread across two buildings. The school offers classes from nursery to class five and has plans to expand to class six in the next academic session.
The students of Justuju School are not only trained to be good human beings but also to meet up various challenges in life. "I want to raise the bar of good quality education," said Gandhi, who plans to upgrade the present school to cater to at least 700 students.
Initially, the team adopted a government school but the kind of transformation they wanted to bring was not possible in a public school, explained Gandhi. "We wanted to change the curriculum and the way it is taught," he said. "It could not be changed so we came up with a separate private school."
The Justuju School, which has expanded from a one-storey building to a three-floor one in the last four years, only takes admissions in nursery classes. They believe in upgrading the minds of students since the beginning of their education. "We only have 50 to 60 slots for the nursery class while we receive an average of 300 applications for admissions," said the school's member of academics, Varisha Khalid.
Each class has no more than 25 students and they have a total of 22 teachers, most of whom are from the neighbourhood and are paid salaries at par with other schools. "The salaries of the teachers are somewhere in between Rs18,000 and Rs26,000 per month," shared Khalid.
When the school started, the students were charged a monthly fee of Rs200 and it has now been increased to Rs250 a month, said school principal Roohi Tabassum. "A majority of the students here study on Zakat and donor funds while many others are also given 50% discounts if their parents cannot afford," she said.
The Zakat and subsidised fee concession is only offered after the admission and the parent's interview. "The locality also has a large number of Christian families and we always ask them before offering them discounted fee because our fee system runs through Zakat," Khalid explained.
The school also has a library and a multimedia room where foreign trainers give lectures to the students. "We also send our teachers on training sessions and workshops to learn better ways of teachings," said Khalid.
The children receive their books, stationery and uniforms free of charge while the Justuju team also takes them out for field trips frequently.
The school is one-of-its-kind in this area, said Fareeda Pervaiz, who has been working as a maid at the school since its inception. "There are a few other private schools but the level of interest and effort children get here is not available anywhere else," she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2017.
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