Most schoolchildren detest their early morning alarms; a shrieking reminder that another day of appeasing teachers and homework duties beckons.
However, the 42 girls at the fast-track learning centre (FTLC) in Mirpur Mangan, Chakwal, eagerly await every school day.
The class consists of girls aged between 10 and 24, who have been out of school for so many years that they are re-learning basic concepts such as alphabets, names of days and arithmetic problems.
The centre is among the 50 centres set up by Mountain Institute for Educational Development (MIED) and Plan International’s Girl Power Programme. It aims to provide over 9,000 girls and women with post-primary education and vocational training without any charges.
The foundation course for students began on Monday, after 52 teachers went through a rigorous 12-day training. However, prior to the foundation course, students started learning basic English, Urdu and concepts of mathematics.
“When I was in school as a child I didn’t enjoy it at all, our teachers would scold and punish us. There was only rote-learning and I never really learned anything,” said 23-year-old Jameela, who walks 45 minutes every day to get to the centre.
Jameela feels she is actually learning this time as teachers focus on understanding subject matter rather than rote-learning.
Much like other students in her class, Jameela is confident to display what she has learnt during her two months at the centre so far and shared her poetry, naat-reading and notebooks with The Express Tribune without any hesitation.
Aside from education, the sense of community the centre has instilled among girls has changed their lives for the better. “I enjoy a lot and the support of my peers has given me a lot of confidence in everyday life,” said the 16-year-old Lubna.
Asked about their makeshift classroom, with 42 students crammed in a small space with no tables or chairs and constant loadshedding, the students rather than complaining tried to defend their classroom. Sitting on the floor makes us feel more laid back and informal, said one of them.
Muhammad Aslam, chairman of a community-based organisation in the area, has helped gain the trust of parents for the FTLC initiative.
While talking to The Express Tribune, he said, “These girls were shy and their parents were sceptical and unwilling to send them to the centre but now they seem to be satisfied.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.