KARACHI Top Pakistani pop star and founding president of the Zindagi Trust Shehzad Roy has been awarded the 2009 Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellowship on Social Entrepreneurship by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs for his philanthropic work in the field of education.
Mr Roy was given the award for the work he has done to improve the quality of primary and secondary education in Pakistan.
The music star is one of the youngest ever recipients of the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, one of Pakistan's highest civil honours, and he has also been awarded Pakistan's highest humanitarian award, the Sitara-i-Eisaar. MTV Pakistan also recently gave him two awards for his music.
Expressing his joy at getting the prestigious fellowship, Mr Roy told Dawn that during his one week stay in Chicago (planned for Oct 24-31 this year) he would like to impress upon notable American educationists, politicians, reformists and media persons the need for the Pakistani government to be pushed to bring about reforms in schools, particularly by replacing outdated textbooks and updating curricula. He said he would appeal to foreign agencies for funds for these projects.
He hoped that during his meetings with Americans from different walks of life and his presentations on educational reforms he would be able to convince agencies to help the Pakistani government realise the importance of reforming the public school system.
'The award, which has been given to me in recognition of our reform work in government schools, will, on the one hand, encourage us to replicate the SMB Fatima Jinnah Govt Girls School in more government schools and, on the other, help in highlighting the importance of turning around government schools among officials as well as teachers, so that they may extend their full cooperation to us in this regard,' he said.
According to a press release posted on the Chicago Council's website, 'the fellowship recognises Mr Roy's commitment to providing better learning opportunities in government-run schools, and honours his goal of encouraging Pakistan's youth to evaluate education and provide them with the knowledge and opportunities they need to realise a peaceful, democratic and political future.'
As a Koldyke Fellow, Shehzad Roy will spend one week in Chicago exchanging ideas about education, philanthropy, and non-profit management with the city's civic, government, business, and academic leaders. He would also deliver a major public address about education in Pakistan to a Chicago Council audience on Oct 29, the release added.
The Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellowship was established by the Koldyke family to recognise leading social entrepreneurs from around the world between the ages of 30 and 45 who are working to transform their societies through creative innovations to social problems. In 2009, the Koldyke Fellowship selection committee focused on primary and secondary education in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Elaborating, the press release said that 'Roy uses the proceeds from his hugely popular concerts to fund the work of the Zindagi Trust, which since 2002 has established vocational centres and healthcare clinics and has worked to improve Pakistan's educational system. One of its first projects, 'I am Paid to Learn', provided child labourers nationwide with monetary compensation for attending school, an important initiative in a country where more than 10.5 million children under the age of 15 work menial jobs to support their families.'
More recently, Mr Roy received the government's permission to take over the 2,500-student SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School in Karachi, where he introduced new textbooks and a curriculum that embraces individual growth, arts, and sports.
'The aim is to produce a 'thinking' individual,' says Mr Roy. 'Students must learn to inquire freely rather than become 'book parrots'. There has to be a culture of discussion, interaction, and proactive thinking.'
Mr Roy says that his ultimate goal is nothing short of reforming the entire government-run school system in Pakistan.