The burly hands of Akhtar clutched the metal bar of the gate with amazing strength. The darkened edges of skin around his eyes told tales of the many nights he had spent staying awake, patrolling this very gate. Pride radiates his sun-burnt face as he says, “Finally there was a letter from Lums which said that my daughter had been selected for the National Outreach Programme (NOP).”
After retiring from his services at the Fauji Foundation, Akhtar was positioned to guard one of the two main gates at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums). A jovial temper afforded him strong friendships with several students. He spoke admiringly of the young students he met every day. He admired their poise, their enlightened minds, their seasoned interactions, their endless privileges, and most of all – their successes.
“I knew that this was where my daughter, Zarmeen, truly belonged.” For Akhtar, the NOP was a rare beacon of hope. The programme allowed students from less privileged backgrounds to enrol at the university on full scholarship.
Zarmeen spent her childhood in the crisp mountain air of Soon Sakesar Valley in Khushab district. Her gifted mind thrived on simple food and much exercise. The only school of note in the valley was the one associated with the Fauji Foundation. While Akhtar worked at the foundation, Zarmeen took her lessons at the school. Referring to the years she spent there, Zarmeen says, “I couldn’t imagine not going to school so there was no alternative but to enrol here. The other private schools of the area are mediocre, and there aren’t any public schools here.”
Consistently topping every class, Zarmeen is aware of the worth of good education, “There are very few opportunities for us here. I left the valley after finishing my Matric and am now enrolled at the Punjab College in Sargodha to complete my FSc. I live in the hostel here.”
She explains that for a long time, her father was the only breadwinner for the family and sometimes his income would fall short of her education expenses. At times like these the family would suffer, but there was no interruption in Zarmeen’s schooling.
With her fluent Urdu tinged with a Punjabi accent, Zarmeen throws in several words from English as she says, “I had seen some educated people from the city. The way they spoke, the way they carried themselves – it made me want to be like them.” She adds proudly: “Besides, I want to be of some use to my country.”
Zarmeen explains that Akhtar convinced her to apply to Lums. He had taken some time off duty, and procured all the necessary forms. “It was partly because of my father’s insistence that I applied. I can’t wait to clear the NOP training session and join the BSc honors programme at the Suleman Dawood School of Business.”
However, Zarmeen exhibits a keen foresightedness by having a back-up plan ready in case she is not able to study at Lums. “I’m quite sure that I’ll live through the training session since the syllabus isn’t difficult. But if it doesn’t work out, then I’ll continue with medicine, become a doctor and serve in the army. I have a great love for our army.”
It was a sweltering summer night in Lahore. A bead of sweat trickles down Akhtar’s brow, and drips off his chin. His gaze is fixated afar as he says, “I have dreamt many dreams for my daughter, and I will work hard to fulfil them.” His clutch on the metal bars of the gate seems to tighten.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.
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Quality education is the only way to progress & freedom. I wish Zarmeen all the best. Hope she makes it to the fine institution that LUMS is. Hats off to her father for dreaming that dream. He is the true hero here!
Great news indeed. A positive step taken by LUMS.
Best of luck, and I pray you succeed in what ever you do....
Reading this story made my day. What a wonderful thing LUMS is doing and I should say that specially its new Vice Chancellor Dr. Adil Najam has infused a new spirit into the University first by himself leaving his very successful and prestigious academic career in the US to return to Pakistan but them really by the many steps he has taken to make LUMS connect with larger Pakistan society. I have heard him speak about this NOP program and each time his eyes light up. We need so many more LUMS, so many more NOPs and so many more Adil Najam. Well done, LUMS.
Videos about the NOP program on the LUMS site and good to watch:
This news cause happiness for me! NOP is a good program. Every University should start such kind of programs there to support poor students who have passion to study and to work for Pakistan.
Best wishes for Zarmeen and her father.
This is one of the best example for all deserving students, who lacks resources, but continue to move ahead with strong will to accomplish their mission. I have a strong perception that these students never fail to achieve their objective. Well done Zarmeen keep going, May Allah be with you.
Ma Sha Allah, Allahumma Barik Alaih, So nice to read such a good thing. Indeed Allah never losses away one's hard work. Good to read that success story. One advice for Zarmeen, she shouldn't be proud of herself, she should show more humility and more courage to fulfill and get succeed yet another exam in LUMS and finally the most important exam of life, in which we have been put by Allah Subhanao Wa'ta'la.
What a wonderful story to hear, being a LUMS alum and after being associated with the National Outreach Programme I feel very very proud to have intelligent Pakistani's like Zarmeen. I also salute the persistence and hard work of her parents who have made it possible.
Very inspiring piece, Faiza! May Allah help her even beyond LUMS.
“Besides, I want to be of some use to my country.” May Allah give the youth of this country the same spirit and dedication as Zarmeen. Ameen !
The writer of this article highlighted the achievement of a girl of underprivileged area as how what she desired once achieved due to sole determination. Pity on commentators who are criticizing LUMS or anything of that sort instead of appreciating Zarmeen and his father. No wonder the whole family must have sacrificed to make dream of Zarmeen fulfilled. Hats off to her, his father and family. One thing, if you achieve a position where you can afford to finance a poor but brilliant student, do at least for one. That's how nation changes.
May God bless you
Salute to this father who had such high dreams for his daughter! May all the other fathers in our country see their such bright futures for their daughters rather than a burden!
Proud of u zarmeen!!!
this is a step that makes us all proud of our country n the top institutions like LUMS all other universties should give these ppl from villages a chance they are pasionate n hardworking people. good luck Zarmeen win medals n make this country proud.
Bravo !!! A very good news after a long time....wish u best of luck Zarmeen...and may Allah fulfill the wishes of her brave father...
Higher education is expensive all over the world and getting more expensive every year. Elite institutions such as LUMS have higher than average fees. Instead of scholarships, government should set up a student loans fund that students can avail to pay for their higher education as there will never be enough scholarships to go around. Students can apply for a loan once admission has been granted. Disbursement is direct to institution not to individual students. Students pay back the loan over so many years after they graduate and start earning. That's how it is in the West and has been for many years.
Student loans come with a price i.e. student is indebted but its better than going without a decent education due to lack of funds. At least its better for government to fund this program than throw money at ridiculous mausoleums and grandiose projects that cost even more to maintain.
We, as a nation, need to get our priorities right.
Sorry. Video here: http://youtu.be/b9LrTAogITk
Hopes are still alive in a land where everyone has become hopeless! A great achievement for Zarmeen and his father Akhter, who dreamt and her daughter made it possible. No wonder LUMS is providing equal education for all! I've almost the same story! A great piece By Faiza Rehman.
Video of LUMS Vice Chancellor talking about this. You can see the passion and conviction that makes such great things happen!
Congrets to Zarmeen and her proud father !!!
Reading by the comments, we surely are very negative & pessimistic people! We definately are our own worst enemy.
What a heartwarming story. LUMS under Dr Adil Najam has blossomed to be amazingly humane and I salute him for his efforts to take what was already a great university ti greater heights and specually for such show of heart.
I would just like to point out to Tribune editors to use pseudonyms in the future for these types of articles: Our society really isn't an ideally un-prejudiced one. I do hope that in the future YOU DO NOT USE ACTUAL NAMES.
This is great news. All the best to Zarmeen. That said, as a LUMS alum, I hope the NOPs have all the resources they need to perform at par with students from more privileged backgrounds. For instance, students take a liberal arts curriculum at LUMS, which involves a lot of writing, and NOPs are often at a disadvantage because of their weak backgrounds in written and spoken English language skills.
Wishing you all the best, dear Zarmeen. You are like my daughters. But I wish and request you," after the completion of studies, do something for PAKISTAN for making this country a welfare state and no army please.
Finally LUMS has started working like IBA... Late but right.
Congratulations to Akhtar and his daughter. Both of you are great people.
Commentators must look the positive side instead of criticizing. These are only public universities who take candidates of underprivileged areas. This is not providing education to individual, but a whole family. A person educated of this class may bring change in the region he/she belongs. Either LUMS or any other extending this kind of opportunity must be appreciated.
Welcome Zarmeen to a home we called LUMS :).
Such a motivational and aspiring tale is this, one can change his/her fortune because of hard work and devotion, provided with a ample opportunity & LUMS outreach programme is that ray of hope and truly a beacon of light for the people who are living on a dark side of a bridge.....
Wonderful.. Thumbs up to LUMS for providing such opportunities to hundreds of talented students who cannot afford a quality education. Best of luck to zarmeen
I believe the author should not have revealed the true identities of the admitted student... Very soon this might continue to haunt the student. In a social setting where she has to stay for a good four years, it would have been better not to announce the humble beginnings of some student... The purpose of the author would have been still met had the identities remained concealed.
Well we are all happy for Zarmeen but notice she has pointed out the root cause; “I had seen some educated people from the city. The way they spoke, the way they carried themselves – it made me want to be like them". She wants to be like few privileged ones because she or 99.99% percent of Pakistani students don't have access to the elite education system. We , as a society, need to make sure that are more top educational Institutions in our county where everyone can go based on their talents and not how much money they have got!
LUMS is an excellent university, and being the top-most school of Pakistan it makes it to the news every now and then. I really don't understand what the problem is. Also, this is a human interest feature and not a news story. ET has a policy of regularly publishing such features. If you have any such inspirational stories the please feel free to share.
@Yasir Mehmood: No public universities are giving scholarships that waive tuition fees worth 15 lakh rupees for an undergrad. You seem to be stating the contradiction in your own complaint without realizing it. Underprivileged kids are getting education ONLY in public universities, the fact that this girl will actually get to go to a private university with high profile faculty and best quality education is whats so great about it! Please think twice before you write discouraging comments on the few things that are going right in this country!
Touching Story! Wishing you Beta all the success & hoping to see you at the top of corporate ladder competing with Indra Nooyi's of Pepsico. You are Pakistan's Nooyi in the making. Make us proud! Love you LUMS!
Tribune seems to be a LUMS newsletter. Many underprivileged students are getting education in public universities, so whats so great about it?
Is ET official newspaper of LUMS? You do a story if someone finds a job, doing exclusive interview of VC or now someone clears a NOP test!! Seriously who ever is planting these stories in ET should take a break!
@~R: You are right to some extant. Problem is that even there all the so called 'diversity quotas' and scholarships are stolen by the same thugs from Pakistan. You don't need any experise in this matter, just take a few top American schools and check the names of Pakistani students there and trace back to Pakistan, you won't be surprised to find yourself in the corridors of power over here.
However, those private top school over there at least have some 5% students from the poor and low income families. Now, check for yourself the percentage reprsentation of the poor and low income students in the top schools over here---it's almost zero with its abhorable consequence of finding the poor and neglected folks here to be abysmally ignorant and exposed to all kind of exploitations in the name of religion or false slogans of our national superiority or us being chronically victims of some mega-international-conspiracy.
@Shariq: "Many ET Contributors" are as well from LUMS like most other industries/sectors in Pakistan that are doing well. LUMS is a great institution and anybody would be ignorant if they were to say otherwise.
hard work & dedication bring success..........big hands for Zarmeen & her father..
just a thought. the training session and the subsequent major test is what decides you'll end up being admitted or not. the initial test is just a small screening test.and zarmeen has passed that one. seriously ET look into the matter with a thorough approach. but yeah if you want to kick high someone's pecker than i guess you're doing a good job.
@bilal: education at a top private university is a luxury in all countries even US - the beacon of education. your point maybe valid but this example is wrong.
a very inspiring story from lums. have now heard so many stories of promise from lums .. there must be somebody good at the top ... great job
Now this is what makes me a proud Pakistani
although it was an amazing story, this just reflects how eduation is now a luxury in Pakistan.
It is nice for such candidates. This National Outreach Programme must be expanded and it must be made mandatory for all such elitist schools to open up and allow a chance to the wretched and downtrodden of the land. This is the only way to break the monopolistic control and access to good education and a small chance to better life here; this is not only desirable from the standpoint of those chronically denied such privileges but also best for the selfish interests of those who have monopolized everything of value in our country by the stregth of the wealth they possess, irrespective of the means of its accumulation. They all must hurry to right the wrongs before it's too late and nothing is left to fix and save, including the wealth that entitles them all the nicer things in life even a opportunity to acquire good education.
Good Luck to Zarmeen.
It is worth noting that Zarmeen has not yet secured the scholarship or enrolled in LUMS; she has just taken the first step to get the merit scholarship. While I wish Zarmeen best of luck I urge the media report properly and without overprojecting.
The roll-call of NOP scholarship is filled with examples of kids from humble backgrounds raising the beacon of education for their families and their country. Many from NOP have gone onto study in premier institutions abroad and some occupy crucial leadership positions already.
Good Show. Hope she clears the training period
All the best kid! STudy hard nad make your father proud.
Sounds like a drama. Intellegince, courage and passion - compound together. Real pride of our youth.
Congratulations. Pakistan is making a come back.
May Allah bring her more successes in life ... go LUMS NOP !!!
Many ET contributors are from LUMS as they cannot find any other job.
A pleasant break from the routine news one gets to read about Pakistan. Feels so nice to see that at times merit does takes precedence over the ability to pay.
LUMS taking the initiative again!
Really proud of LUMS
In this time, when people do no think beyond their traditional boudaries, this is an exemplery step. May all dreams of father and daughter come true. Wish you all the best.
Touching story indeed! I was there at the convocation when the Vice chancellor narrated the story! Couldn't have been more proud of being part of Lums!
All the best Zarmeen!