Ali Raza studies in the 5th grade at a Zindagi Trust School in Lahore. He never misses school, always scores above 90% on tests and exams, and shines at the top of his class. His father is a carpenter who struggles to support Ali and his seven sisters on an average monthly income of just over $100. After school, Ali helps sell fruit on a roadside cart to support his family.
Ali grew up in abject poverty but remembers his earlier childhood days fondly. He believes the economic struggle of his family ended up being a great motivator for him to study, work hard and to never lose hope. His father did not prioritise educating his children, but his mother - who had been to school till the 5th grade - valued the power of education and was devoted to sending her children to school. Ali and his sisters started off studying at home with their mother, because they could not afford to enroll in school. Eventually, they all signed up to study at Zindagi Trust's free school for working children.
Ali is passionate about serving his country and wants to be a doctor when he grows up. He leaves us with a message from his mother who always consoled him when he felt down and hopeless and taught him to never lose hope because success was waiting for him at the end of the road. Here is a video of Ali talking about his journey and hopes.
The school Ali goes to is one of several "Paid to Learn" non-formal schools run by Zindagi Trust in the urban slums of Rawalpindi and Lahore. These schools do not charge any kind of fees and take in students of different age groups and integrate them into the education system by covering primary education in just over two years. Please consider making a donation to us to support the education of children like Ali!
Zindagi Trust aims to improve the quality of life and the quality of education accessible to poor Pakisanis by giving under-privileged working children the opportunity to attend school and finish basic primary education. To date, over 4000 childlren forced into labour have completed primary school through Zindagi Trust's Paid to Learn initiative, with almost 500 of them continuing their education in a government or private secondary school. 1800 such children are currently enrolled in our schools across urban Pakistan.
The keys to the success of the programme are two-fold:
1) The schools adapt to the needs of street-smart, working children by teaching them an accelerated course which condenses five years of primary school into two years and two months. Our Academic Team trains teachers through regular as well as refresher courses to equip them to follow this challenging course.
2) The schools impart non-textbook knowledge which makes the school experience immediately practical for a population not entirely sold on the value of education. The curriculum includes topics such as life skills, awareness about hygiene, healthcare, safety, etc. all of which are integrated into everyday classes and special events like neighbourhood surveys and campaigns or occasions like Earth Day, instead of being taught as a separate subject.
Engaged through such hands-on activities and projects, children gain awareness about problems in a way that makes them own the issues much more effectively than learning about their importance in a textbook could. Their active participation in curricular and co-curricular activities also helps develop their confidence, which goes a long way in ensuring that they fight for a better future.
We would like to share some glimpses of the extra-curricular and co-curricular activities that take place regularly in our schools:
Spring Plantation Drive: Students celebrate the coming of spring through a Plantation Week. This involves sowing seeds, looking after baby plants, and learning about the ecosystem through a combination of lectures and hands-on activities. These activities are held in our schools across Pakistan every spring to create environmental awareness among children who spend most of their days on the street or at work. The children are motivated through a competition which awards a special prize to students who look after their plants best until they flower.
Cleanliness Week aims to instill in the children a responsibility about their environment through both lessons and play. The students enjoy interactive sessions on the environment with their teachers. A quiz competition and a poster competition on cleanliness are organized to promote awareness. Students also perform tableaus to demonstrate the importance of environmental awareness.
Clean Drinking Water Campaign: The children run their own awareness campaign every year about the health hazards of drinking unclean water. After an initial briefing by their science teachers, children reach out to those in their respective communities to fight against water-borne diseases. They also give demos to the communities on how water can be purified cheaply at home.
Celebrating Heroes: Children learn about and celebrate Pakistan's national heroes - poets, scientists, explorers, athletes, etc. through special days dedicated to them in which the personalities are remembered through speeches, tableaus, fun pop quiz competitions and gallery presentations on their work.
Other initiatives made possible by the support of our donors include:
A big thank you to all our supporters for making our work with these amazing children possible! We look forward to your continued support which lets us bring these programmes to the working children in Pakistan's urban slums.
Qaisra is a 5th-grader who works at a beauty salon to support her family. She is enroled in one of Zindagi Trust's schools for working children in Lahore. Her father is a laborer and earns a meagre 7000 PKR a month, which does not completely support his family of seven children.
Barely twelve years old, she wakes up early in the morning to do household chores, goes to the salon, then to school in the afternoon and then again to the salon. She learnt how to cut children's hair and has four to five assignments waiting for her at the salon every evening. She is confident in her skills and has shown maturity beyond her years by taking up the responsibility of supporting her family income.
As a student, she is regular, punctual, hardworking and has a solid understanding of math and science, always doing well in tests and exams. She is a quiet child but displays a great self-confidence in her participation in class activities. She has seen the harsh reality of growing up in poverty but she strongly believes that education will enable her to find her way out of poverty. She also wants to take on a leadership role to help girls like herself to empower themselves through education and live the lives of their choice.
Zindagi Trust sponsors not only the non-formal primary education programme that Qaisra is enrolled in, but also funds the continuing education of our best performing primary school graduates. It is a matter of great pride for us that half of our beneficiaries are girls who will one day be able to pull themselves out of poverty through education. We express our deep gratitude to our donors for their continued support in making these programs possible.
Madiha studies in the third grade at Zindagi Trust's non-formal school for working children. Her family migrated to the city of Rawalpindi from a small village in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She was orphaned when she was only five when her father's death left her mother alone to raise her and her five siblings. Her mother found work as a maid and took her along as a helping hand. She doesn't remember her family ever doing well enough to afford more than one meal a day. Despite the tragic loss of innocence, Madiha has a positive and mature take on learning and loss:
"For me learning is anything that teaches you a lesson - we learn both from the textbooks and from our daily life experiences, whether they are good or bad. Learning is something that is totally yours - you can share with others but nobody can steal it from you."
She starts a typical day by going to work with her mother in the morning where they clean houses till the afternoon, when it's time to go to school. Right after getting back from school, she does her homework. She then helps her mother with household chores after which she spends an extra hour and a half at night preparing for the next day's classes. Her teachers are very pleased with her performance and active participation at school.
Madiha was not always in school. At the house she helped her mother clean every morning, she saw children going to school and longed for their colourful uniforms, books and bags. She dreamed of reading books and writing neatly with colourful pens. She waited to empty the trash in the children's room just so she could collect the torn printed paper - looking at scraps of paper, trying to piece together the words and pictures drawn on them was her favourite part of the day.
She wanted to learn how to read and write and asked her mother repeatedly to let her go to school. Despite her mother's initial refusal, Madiha had faith that her mother's love would one day send her to school. This happened when her mother found out about Zindagi Trust's free afternoon schools for working children.
Madiha remembers her first day of school fondly - bright, friendly faces and teachers urging her mother to put all her children in school, to give them the chance of a better future. Today, two of her siblings are also studying in the same school and Madiha aims to complete her studies to become a teacher. She and her mother are thankful to the support of donors like you who made the change in her life possible.
Abid is a twelve-year-old studying in the fourth grade. He is the son of a labourer who works on daily wages and struggles to earn a meager income to support Abid and his five sisters, who live in Kot Lakhpat, an urban slum in Lahore.
Abid has grown up around extreme poverty, one of the cruelest realities of big-city life. His circumstances forced him to seek a job as staff help in a general store near home, where he works in the morning. In the afternoon, Abid and three of his sisters go to the Peco Road School, established and run by Zindagi Trust under the Paid to Learn program for mainstreaming working children into primary education.
Abid is a keen student who never misses a day of school. His teachers find him to be one of the brighter children at school – he scored above 95% on his last term exams. Showing maturity and self-introspection beyond his years, he tells us that he always questions himself before taking decisions and that this practice has helped him understand himself.
He lives by the motto that if you believe in yourself, the world can be yours. He has written his favorite Urdu saying at the entrance of the school:
‘Do what you want to do and do not limit yourself because what you believe, you can achieve’
He wants to grow up to be a pilot.
On behalf of Zindagi Trust, a big Thank You to all our supporters around the world for making it possible for Abid and other children like him to go to school, to dream, and to believe.
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