Access to quality education can transform lives. An organisation that dedicatedly understands this is The Citizens Foundation (TCF) — a non-profit focused on education in Pakistan.
Hailing from underprivileged backgrounds, students from TCF strive for excellence and have went on to become successful educationists, entrepreneurs, doctors and artists. Here, we look at the inspirational journeys of some TCF students and alumni.
“My vision was to become independent and not a burden on others.”
Basharat Mehdi, a differently-abled student at TCF
Basharat’s father would tell him that, “Education is the light of God.” With his father as a motivator, the 19-year-old has fought for this light to shine upon his world despite the many odds that stand against him. Even after losing both his legs in a tragic accident, his determination to succeed has remained intact.
It was his positive attitude that led him to enroll in a TCF school nearby.
Once in school, Basharat knew no matter what the nature of his disability, he would never let it hinder him from his dream of becoming an engineer, and being independent in every aspect of his life, be it physiological, social or financial.
With some financial support from his father, Basharat manages the remaining cost of his own education by taking up part-time jobs that cover the expenses of textbooks and the special transport required to get to and from school.
Basharat believes that the worst disability that one can suffer from is that of an uneducated life and a bleak future. He hopes to spread the light of literacy that has transformed his own life, to other differently-abled individuals all over the country.
“I want to build my own hospital so that I can serve my people and community.”
Zakia Madad Ali, an MBBS student at DOW University of Health Sciences
Zakia grew up in a community where watching young infants and children falling victim to disease and succumbing to its torture was not an uncommon story. What hurt Zakia most was the knowledge that many of these diseases could be cured with easy treatment.
Unfortunately, access to adequate treatment seemed like mere wishful thinking in her neighbourhood. This is where Zaikia decided to become part of the solution — she wanted to become a doctor and heal her community. The first step to realising this dream was her enrolment at TCF.
After excelling at school, the young woman went on to join the DOW University of Health Sciences, where she is now pursuing her MBBS.
Zakia is now the first responder for any health emergencies within her community. Mothers, children and elders alike come to her for medical counsel and treatment. Zakia believes that healing one person at a time in her community is one step closer to a healthier and happier Pakistan.
“I want [TCF students] to believe that if they work hard and focus, they can break through all …barriers.”
Nadeem Hussain, currently working with the World Bank
Nadeem grew up in a katchi abadi. His father worked at a wire factory, struggling to make ends meet. Refusing to let this deter him, Nadeem continued pursuing an education with TCF.
Following his graduation from TCF in 2007, through sheer dedication he has went on to see a meteoric rise.
He completed a degree in Computer Science from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) and went on to become one of 16 Pakistani students selected to attend courses in public policy at the University of Massachusetts, USA.
Nadeem has worked with the State Bank of Pakistan as a team lead and is currently working with the World Bank as a technical assistant for its Sindh Global Partnership for Education project.
He is also helping design and execute TCF’s Alumni Development Programme, which helps TCF alumni secure admissions in some of the best universities in Pakistan and abroad. In just two years, 106 students have benefitted through this programme.
“Education has empowered me.”
Anum Fatima, currently working at Pak Arab Refinery
Anum was born in a household facing significant financial challenges. Her father worked tirelessly as a driver at a local company, asking nothing of her children except that they focus on their studies.
She joined TCF as a seventh grader and continued to excel. After graduating in 2006, Anum received her MBA from the College of Business Management in Karachi.
Anum was the first girl in her family to attend college.
In 2013, she received a scholarship to attend a summer programme at Harvard University. At the end of the programme, the driven woman won the grand prize in her class.
During a subsequent internship in Washington DC, Anum designed a micro lending project for her community with Julie Garel, Project Director at Convergence, a policy research organisation. She launched the project upon her return and so far, Anum has already provided micro loans to two families, helping them improve their own lives. One individual she helped was Akhter.
“Akhter was really worried about money. He wasn’t able to make ends meet for his family so I offered him a loan for his business. I’m a bridge between people who want to help and the ones who need help," she said.
Anum is currently working at Pak Arab Refinery as a management trainee and wishes to continue with micro financing work on a broader scale once she achieves financial stability herself.
“I feel that I must use my art to highlight and reinforce positive values and play a part in bringing peace to this city.”
Ayub Khan, an artist
Ayub, grew up in the conflict-ridden and gang-infested Karachi neighbourhood of Lyari. Despite this, Ayub was always a sensitive student who was interested in painting since an early age.
His innate talent and flair for art found expression at school when his teachers encouraged him to paint and draw. Along with participating in several school-level art competitions, Ayub also won the first prize in an art competition organised by Toyota Motors.
He has since been involved in an effort to promote peace through art in Karachi under the banner of I am Karachi. The initiative focuses on replacing negative and politically charged graffiti around the city with visual images and messages that illustrate positive values such as peace, tolerance and diversity.
Most recently, Ayub hit another milestone in his promising career in the arts when more than 50 of his paintings were exhibited at the National Museum of Pakistan.
“During my interview for the principal’s position, the regional manager asked me, ‘What if you do not make it?’ I told him that I would try harder next time. I will be like a spider that never gives up...”
Rohaila Khan, principal TCF Primary School, Khuda Ki Basti
After completing her matriculation from TCF in 2004, Rohaila pursued her passion for education by joining the organisation as a pre-primary teacher. Over the next eight years, she was promoted to become an English language teacher, while also earning a Bachelors degree in Sociology.
Owing to her confidence and management capabilities, she went on to become the first TCF alumna to later serve as a principal.
To learn more about TCF or to get involved click here.
Photos and video courtesy TCF