Irum with her Grandmother
Dear Friends -
As summer comes to a close, our program continues in full swing thanks to your support. Summers in this part of Pakistan are very hot, sometimes passing the 120-degree (F) mark. Our students are typically given a summer break from mid-June to mid-August, but it doesn‘t mean it’s just free time for everyone. Generally, our students in grades 6-8 are already through their annual exam and are in the new class if they have passed. They get loads of homework to do during the two months’ break. Students in grades 9 and 10 have taken exams, but the results have not been announced, so they are free during these vacations while they await word on their scores. Students in 11th to 14th grades are usually busy in their annual exams during these very months.
July is also the breaking of the fast of Ramadan and the beginning of the ‘meethi Eid’, or Sweet Eid festival. This is a time when families reunite, celebrate with food and fun, and infuse a sense of community.
Or colleagues at Bedari have also been very active in the villages during these months, not only supporting the core educational programs, but also delivering the self-growth programs that I mentioned in the last update. They have provided several updates in the past few weeks.
First, we have an update on an additional 24 students' national testing: 21 of them appeared for secondary school examination, and 3 of them appeared for graduation level examination.
Secondary School students: 18 girls passed their exams successfully and have moved to the next level, while two failed partially, they would have to reappear for two papers only. They would reappear for the two papers in their supplementary exam. (Supplementary exams are held for those students who fail partially (in one or two subjects), so that they do not have to wait for full one year to reappear.) There is one girl who failed her exam, and has dropped out of our program.
Three girls appeared for exams; two of them passed successfully, and have moved out of our program. They would be replaced by new girls. One girls has failed two of her papers. She would reappear for the two papers in supplementary exams.
Higher Secondary Students: (Result Awaited)
Higher secondary is a level between secondary and graduation level. Students study for two years at higher secondary level, before they can go for their graduation. 7 of our girls appeared for higher secondary level exams, and their result is still awaited. We expect that their result would be announced in this month.
Bedari was also kind enough to provide profiles on a few students that we'll be sharing over the coming months. This time we have a wonderful letter written by a student named Irum (picture with her grandmother attached). We'll let her tell her story in her own words:
Hi… I am Irum, I am 14 years old living in remote village named Dharyala Kahoon in district Chakwal (Punjab, Pakistan). We are three siblings – me and my two elder brothers. We were living happily – that is what I remember from my early childhood. I was too young to understand the tricky situation, but I remember everything changed with my father’s death. I was just 3 years old then. I didn’t know what death meant; I was told father would not come home again. He had been taken back by Allah. I didn’t know why Allah needed him. Anyhow, there are so many questions we don’t find answers to them.
We moved to our grandfather’s house. My elder brothers could not cope with the new situation, and one by one both of them ran away, and never returned. In the meanwhile, my mother developed a relationship with another man. As it would not have been accepted here in our society, she decided to marry him secretly, and left the house one night without informing anyone. These incidents, one after the other, were too much for my grandpa. He was distraught, dejected, and heartbroken. Soon he died and his misery ended. It all happened within two years starting with my father’s death, and ending with my grandfather’s.
We were left all at our own – me and my grandmother. I was too young, and she was too old. My grandfather had left a small piece of cultivable land. My grandmother would rent it out, and we would manage our expenses through that small amount. The rent was not good enough as there was no irrigation system, and the yield depended on timely rains.
I went to the village school, which offered classes up to 8th grade. It is a public school with nominal fee, which my grandmother would manage easily. However, when I passed 8th grade, my grandmother told me, ‘Sweetheart! You are mature enough to understand that your old grandma cannot bear the cost of sending you to high school in Dulmial. You know I am too old, I may die any day. I don’t know what you do when you have no one to take care of you. I think I should arrange your marriage as soon as possible’.
I knew I would not be able to go to high school, and I had accepted it as my fate. But I was scared to hear the other plan my grandma had for me. I cried a lot, and got a promise from my grandma that she would not think of my marriage for at least another two years. She agreed, though still she did not know what would be my fate if she died.
In the meanwhile, Bedari arrived in our village with a plan to provide scholarships to girls who had performed well in their education in class 5or above. When I came to know about the details, and asked my grandma to talk to Bedari people, it was too late. They had already selected 31 girls, and would not accommodate more. I was dejected, but they put my name in the waiting list. I waited, waited and waited. One whole year passed like that.
I had lost all hope, and thought my secondary education was a closed chapter. That was when Uncle Tanveer (a member of our village committee) turned up at our home, and told my grandma that a girl had dropped out of Bedari’s project, and they could send Irum to high school. I was overjoyed at the news. Grandma readily agreed, and the next day uncle Tanveer took me to high school. I got admitted, the school administration provided me the books, and uncle Tanveer made arrangements for my pick and drop. It was again Uncle Tanveer who provided me old uniform of his daughter, though it did not fit well, but liked it very much. I receive scholarship amount in the first week of every month.
Now I go to school regularly. I have attended two Self-Growth Sessions, and learnt how to be assertive without being offensive, and how to negotiate with people. I loved that, and would make sure that I do not miss any of these sessions, these are so useful.
And yes, the best thing is … my grandma has not mentioned my marriage since I started going to school.
It's wonderful to hear these success stories, and to know that all our efforts are working in the field. I hope you share my excitement about the potential of this program.
On a more sobering note, we have sufficient funding residual from our initial project with Bedari to continue supporting our program through the remainder of this year, but will need to raise some additional funds going into the next school year. Please pass along the word about Girls Ed and our program if you are so inclined - a few informational links are attached.
All the best -