Dawn News

Doing best for street children

ISLAMABAD, Oct 26: Though there are many people working for the betterment of street children, Mrs Hussain Tariq knows what really is best for them.

Not only does the retired principal of a government school want a better life for them, she wants an educated society. And if Mrs Tariq could have it her way, she would take every child off the street and bring them to her classrooms.

“It’s all about making this a better place to live. Education is the only way forward,” said Mrs Tariq, moving around with the help of a wheeled walker.

She started out a small scale school seven years back, taking in five children who had spent half their lives in the streets. Today, Mrs Tariq has over 40 children of maids, drivers, gatekeepers and masons in the three tiny classrooms.

Parents implore Mrs Tariq to help their children become better individuals and not end up like them. And it has started to hurt her every time Mrs Tariq refuses to take in more children.

“I have been asking my husband to help me build one more room to help more children get off the streets. But I understand there are certain limitations in the law as to adding more rooms,” she said, pointing towards construction material lying in the backyard for several months. Except a few friends helping out to provide some old furniture, Mrs Tariq had never accepted donations. And she does not intend to in the future either.

Third-grade student Syed Mustajab has started enjoying the school. Good luck brought the child here from a religious school where he was very harshly treated. Bruises from that experience are still there on his body but after a plenty of effort by his new teachers, the scars on his mind have gone.

Instead of cursing and picking on his classmates, today the 11-year-old does not end a sentence without the words ‘thank you’.

Halima Ahmad, one of his three teachers, is amazed at Mustajab’s grasp on Mathematics during the two months he has been with her.

“Some of them are slightly grown up kids. We have to start from the very basics to groom them, tell them to stay clean, behave politely and dress up nice besides teaching them all the basics of character building,” said Halima Ahmad. She explained how it took four to six months to improve their languages, especially the Pathan children who could not even speak Urdu.

Ahmad Ali, who also loves Mathematics, had found learning at Mrs Tariq’s school a completely different and motivating experience.

“I get so much attention. Teachers check my homework. I don’t fail anymore,” said Ahmad Ali in class four, who left Islamabad Model School for Boys in F-8/2.

Ayesha Zulfiqar, who is a civil engineer and teaches voluntarily at the school, had seen a big difference in the attitudes of the children. She only hoped that these street children would eventually go to school, live with loving families who will guide them like some children who were today studying in government schools after leaving Mrs Tariq.

“Education has a big role in moulding children. We should give more priority to children who cannot go to school because of financial problems. Instead of criticising them, we need to focus on ways to help them,” Mrs Tariq stressed. She took in writing from parents to pick and drop their children.

The three teachers took turns to see off children themselves.

In the three years since her tiny school was built, Mrs Tariq has seen several talented street children who could write and draw.

“All they need is appreciation and guidance,” she added. And that was exactly why she wished there was a garage school in every house.

“Because if people do not take actions, there is no hope for this country,” Mrs Tariq said.

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