Shamsuddin is a 12-year-old who lives with his parents and 8 younger siblings in the slums of Rawalpindi. He starts his day early with a trip to the wholesale vegetable market in Islamabad where he helps his father buy onions and potatoes at a good price for them to sell at their own stall. Later, they bring their selection of produce to their vegetable stall in the city, where he helps attract buyers and manage sales till 1pm in the afternoon.
Until last year, his job as a salesman did not end in the afternoon but ran well into the evening. It was around then that our Academic Coordinator encountered him on one of his scouting visits and convinvced him and his father to let Shams enroll in our accelerated Paid to Learn program where children who work or live in urban slums complete primary school in two years, in a customised, non-formal, multi-age classroom every afternoon in a school near their home. He is now a second-grade student at our Fauji Colony School in Rawalpindi.
Shams attends school regularly and is always on time, showing interest and intelligence in his studies. He is known in school for his great sense of humour, something that pleases him when mentioned:
"Humour is the key to awakening wonder and wonder is where learning begins," he says with a smile.
He goes on to tell us that his life revolves around struggling for goals, small and big: fetch water, make money, go to school and finally become a good businessman. Being the eldest of 8 siblings, he also wants to be the umbrella of support for his family, ensuring security, comfort and peace for them. He is confident that he can achieve all these goals by working hard, a remarkably positive perspective for someone who has seen so much struggle at such a young age. Despite his realisation of his does not complain about having to work with his father, instead reflecting on how the secrets of the trade he has picked up will help him make it big as a businessman.
He is grateful to supporters like you who have given life to the working children community and enabled Zindagi Trust to put a good number of them in schools. He wanted to share this final message with you, something he repeats often to his classmates, friends and cousins:
"We were born underprivileged but thanks to the generosity of strangers who are supporting our education and our own hard work we will be privileged in the future."
Thank you for your support in helping us education children like Shams. We hope you will support us with another donation or share our work with your friends and family!
Amna is a 9th-grade student at City Cambridge Grammar School in the Korangi Industrial Area of Karachi. She just finished her school exams at the top of her class and is about to sit for her final board exams. If you had predicted her future to her five years ago, she would have asked you if you had mistaken her for someone else. Five years ago, she was not in school and would spend her days working in a sewing centre to contribute to the meagre household income. Her father worked in a textile factory and her mother was a local midwife - their combined earnings were not enough to support their growing family of five.
She was recruited by Zindagi Trust to join their Paid to Learn school for working children, where she, along with other working children from the slums of Korangi, would finish primary school in an accelerated two-year course and also earn a cash scholarship to help cushion against the opportunity cost of missing work. When she first started school, she struggled with a painful lack of confidence, perhaps because she entered a classroom for the first time at a ripe age. She credits her teachers at the school with helping develop her self-confidence during those years, a memory that brings tears to her eyes.
She finished the primary course at the top of her class and was selected as one of the graduates whose secondary education would be sponsored by the trust. Our staff got her placed into a good private school not far from her home and guided her through the transition to the private grammar school. Amna maintained an impressive academic performance throughout, getting a top 3 position every year from sixth-grade through ninth-grade today.
Not forgetting her struggle when starting school, Amna has made it her mission to educate and empower the girls in her community through confidence-boosting and career guidance. She works with a team of six friends from schools to help develop self-confidence in girls like herself by sharing the stories of her own battles.
Amna wants to grow up to be a doctor. Her favourite subject at school is biology and she says she loves studying how the human body functions. She also works as a first-aid trainer after school in her community along with some friends. She believes that education and first-aid training changed her life and wants to help other girls from her community get the same opportunity to evolve and transform into well-informed, educated women.
Amna appreciates the local presence of Zindagi Trust in her area and points it out as a factor that encouraged her family and community to send their children to school. On behalf of Amna and all our students enrolled in the Paid to Learn programs, we would like to thank our donors for enabling the education of so many bright young students in urban slums across Pakistan.
We fed a daily breakfast to more than 250 kindergarten students at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School in Karachi. The menu remained the same as the last quarter, featuring a tall glass of milk along with one of the following: fruit salad, potato cutlets, French toast, bread with jam and butter, eggs, sandwiches, wheat porridge, pancakes, sweet porridge, chick peas, and boiled potatoes.
Dr Seema Hassan (MD, MPH, CPH), a doctor specializing in public health and nutrition evaluated our menu to review the nutritional value of the food offered to the students. She has proposed certain changes, such as introducing wheat porridge and using homemade jams instead of store-bought ones loaded with preservatives. She also urged us to check the ingredients list of all packaged items such as oil, spices and butter to prevent the use of unwanted additives and guard against contamination. Earlier, our management urged upon the school to avoid refined floor products such as biscuits and sugary cereals. These changes will be incorporated at the onset of the new academic year starting April.
The Sindh province is plagued with malnourishment and stunting, which is one of the reasons for our introducing the breakfast program at a public school. To determine the impact of the breakfast as well as of the changes in the menu, we measured the baseline weight and height of the students in August. A follow-up was taken this month and the endline weight and height record has shown a considerable improvement in the health and growth of our youngest students.
The class teachers and the section incharge get regular feedback from the parents of the kindergarten students, as they come to school to pick up their children every day. In general, the parents have given a great positive response to the new breakfast items being served at school and have noticed an improvement in the overall eating habits of their children. They are thankful to donors like you who make this breakfast program possible!