From students to teachers: Undergrad doctors do more than treat patients, they educate

Students of Sindh Medical College start welfare school that is completely free-of-charge.


Our Correspondent July 15, 2014

KARACHI:


A group of medical students want to give back to the society in ways other than through their healing hands. They want to educate those who cannot afford to enrol in schools.


With a vision to improve the standard of education in Pakistan, a group of Sindh Medical College (SMC) students have established Sehar Welfare School, a two-room facility packed with students of all ages.

The campaign first kicked off on the SMC campus, where a few students went around campus trying to recruit interested volunteers. The next step was tricky as they had to find a place to set up their school. “After scanning through advertisements, we finally rented out a place in Hassan Square,” said Faizan Shaukat, the founder of the school. “Although we only had it for three hours in the evening, it was still a good start.”

Once the facility was set up, the students faced the back-breaking task of recruiting students from the slums. It was harder than they had thought. “We went to Essa Nagri, Ayub Goth and the slums along Lyari Expressway, and it was extremely hard to assure parents that we were genuinely committed to our cause,” said Hassan Masood Jafri, the president of Sehar Welfare. “Most of the children were already working full-time and the parents just weren’t ready to end their daily income by sending their kids to school.”

After repeated visits to the slums to convince the parents, the first batch of students finally showed up with their transportation, uniforms and books arranged by the school. With high spirits, the teachers were determined to make this batch exemplary for the ones to follow. But, only after two weeks, the children dropped out and went back to their jobs.

The young students felt their year-long planning had fallen apart but little did they know that a nurse from Essa Nagri had been observing their project and wanted to help out. She decided to go door-to-door and persuade her neighbours to keep sending their children to the school. This time when the children came in, they stayed with them for good.

“We have a person in charge of calling up the students’ parents every single day to update them about what was taught,” said Shaukat. “It is tedious work but we do it to keep the parents from making their kids drop out.”

Mohammad Ali, a student who has been coming to this school since a year has topped the class, “My father has a medical store and he keeps telling me to help him at the shop,” he said. “But I told him that I will become a doctor.”

Another student, 14-year-old Alishba Ajmal, was always passionate about learning but didn’t have the means to. “My aunt used to teach me how to read Urdu since she had studied till Matric,” she said. “Then these medical students talked to my father and he agreed to send me here.” Her mother, Razia Ajmal, works as a maid at one of the wedding halls in Korangi and could not have been more proud. “My husband and I wanted our children to have the best education. I tried enrolling Alishba in a government school but they asked for some source or money and I had neither.”

Despite the progress, the space limitations have put a lid on the number of students who can benefit. “The same families who had refused us earlier are now approaching us to register more students in our school,” said Jafri. “We currently have 60 students on the waiting list but we just don’t have enough space to accommodate them.”



What is being taught?

Not only does the school print its own books for every child, it also has an individual syllabus for each student. “We all know the dismal state of affairs at government schools; the books are decades old and have never been updated,” Shaukat pointed out. “I wanted to open a school that would have a better curriculum depending on each student’s potential.”

The children are divided into higher and lower sections depending on their learning abilities. Around five to six teachers work four days a week from 3:30pm to 6:30pm and teach every child separately. “We are focusing on Urdu, Math and English for now but for the next session we plan to teach them science as well.”

Mechanics: How does the system work?

The Sehar Welfare School is run by a group of 150 volunteers, who are overlooking 21 students. “We are just not a bunch of amateurs teaching random things to kids,” said Hassan Masood Jafri, the president of Sehar Welfare. “Our volunteers are organised into departments, such as marketing, academics and finance.”

The team always finds several volunteers from different universities willing to help out, arranging funds still remains a pressing issue for them. “Most of the time, we don’t know if we have enough money to run the school the next month,” said Arqam Shariq, the chairperson of Sehar Welfare.

Major funding for the school comes from donation drives and through Facebook promotions. “We have to hold donation drives twice every month to collect enough money,” said Faizan Shaukat, the founder of the school, adding that this is their major source of funding. “We go to Zamzama, Tariq Road and other market places and spend hours until we get a substantial amount.”

Adopt-a-kid: For Rs1,000 a month, you can help too 


If you are interested in adopting one of the Sehar Welfare School students, you can do so with only Rs1,000 per month, which covers the cost of books, uniforms, transport and stationary. The amount can be paid monthly or on a yearly basis.


“We have only three to four kids who have donors for the whole year,” said Arqam Shariq, the chairperson of Sehar Welfare. “Through this programme, we keep the donors in the loop about the progress of their kid and send them monthly reports as well.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2014.

COMMENTS (2)

Hamood ur Rahman | 7 years ago | Reply

Well done guys. It's always good to see SMC in a positive aspect :)..

Am sure all the current and passouts are proud of you..

Sajidullah Mahmood | 7 years ago | Reply

I have known about this school and the society that runs it at a personal level for quite a while now. This is a prime example of people with a heart and mind to change their dismal surroundings through whatever meager resources they may have. Pakistan is a great country because of such great people, who would just never give in no matter how worse the odds they have to face. This particular medschool, the Sindh Medical College, JSMU, has a long history of producing students and physicians that give back to the society in more than just being doctors, they are well rounded humans that care and come up with worthy ways to serve the Pakistan society at large.

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