The Road to Literacy

Masiha Hakeem is the oldest girl in her class at school. “I do not mind,” she says. “I feel comfortable around the students who are younger than me.” She is in the 10th grade at the Yaldooz Girls’ school. Seven years ago, she did not know how to read.

alt

Masiha did not start her education until the age of 14, when she first started attending one of Barakat’s Literacy Programs. She says she first learnt of Barakat in 2004. “The elders of our village and our families were so excited about the program,” she says. “Without any hesitation, my family allowed me to go the literacy course.” She was starting her journey on the road to literacy.

Read more…


A Day in the Life of a Barakat Student

Gul Bakht is a 16 year-old girl. She lives in Attock, Pakistan. Every morning, she wakes up at 4 am, two ho?urs before the sun rises. She rubs the sleep out of her eyes and puts on her usual clothing, shalwar and kameez, which are baggy pants and a long tunic shirt. She prays with her family and then eats her breakfast—milk, tea, and rice, her favorite.

alt

By the time the sun rises, she has started her daily work—weaving carpets. Her family of 12 works with her, including an elder and a younger brother who also study. She and her brothers are the only ones who can read and write in her family. “My family have always supported me about going to school; I go there because education opens your mind,” she says.

By the time the sun rises, she has started her daily work—weaving carpets. Her family of 12 works with her, including an elder and a younger brother who also study. She and her brothers are the only ones who can read and write in her family. “My family have always supported me about going to school; I go there because education opens your mind,” she says.

Gul works with her family with few breaks until 3 pm. After changing her clothes, she walks to the Evening School for Girls at Barakat Elementary. She settles down at her desk, smiles at the girl she shares it with, and opens her textbook, ready to learn. She says she loves school. “We learn many new things in school—especially manners to live a graceful life. I like all the subjects.” She takes a break in the middle of her school day for recess, talking with the three other girls in the Evening School.

At 6 pm, just as the last shreds of sunset fade from the sky, she walks back to her house. She sits down with her family and eats dinner before getting back to work. She weaves carpets with her family until its time to go to bed at 10 or 11 pm. All in all, Gul works about 14 hours a day. She usually gets about 6 hours of sleep. Sometimes, just before she goes to bed, she takes out her favorite book—an English book from school– and reads stories. She thinks about her future—about becoming a teacher—and what it means to her. “I want to be a teacher, because teachers play a key role. They help make the lives of their students.” Then she goes to sleep, ready to wake up a few hours later and start all over again.


Teaching in Pakistan

Teaching is a challenging profession the world over. Farah, a teacher at Barakat Pakistan’s Ersari Elementary School, has special challenges to face. She teaches children that are often from low-income backgrounds, children that sometimes face cultural or religious opposition to going to school. “When students drop out, that’s the hardest part,” she says.

alt

Farah is 28 years old. She speaks Urdu, Punjabi, and English. She started teaching in 2004. She was trained in government schools; despite the fact that it was difficult at times to afford her education, her family was always supportive. Farah chose to teach for two reasons. She liked the profession, but more importantly, she wanted to help her students “keep in touch with their moral values. ” For Farah, knowing right from wrong is the most important part of being a successful part of society.

Each day, Farah wakes up at 5 am and makes herself a fried egg, which she eats with paratha, a kind of flatbread. She does her household chores, which include feeding her parrots and puppy. Her mother, brother, and sister all work as well. The morning is their time to be together. They usually pray early in the morning.

Read more…


School is Back in Session

In Arabic, the word Qu’ran literally means recitation. Our students in Pakistan recently did just that, as they took part in speaking competitions designed to help the students gain confidence and compete with peers in a positive way.

School is back in session after the Eid holiday. Eid is a holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Our students are glad to get back to school, partly because of the fact that many of them work to help support their family during the summer. “We like to go to school because at home, we have to work very hard, but in school we have studies and time to play.”

altThe recitation competitions were designed with that in mind. “[The competitions] are held to refresh the kids,” teachers said. There were two competitions recently. The Qirat competition, in which students recite verses from the Qu’ran , and the Pakistan Memorial Day speech competition that took place on September 6. Typically, teachers hold small competitions like these throughout the year. Sometimes students receive small prizes like erasers or notebooks.

The teachers were very excited to see students come back. “We worry about drop-outs a lot—students are our focus point and [to see them] drop out is shocking for us.” However, the teachers also spoke about the rewards of seeing students improve. “Teachers are the spiritual parents of students; they feel like their real biological parents about their success.”

Parents of our students are also looking forward to the start of school. One student said, “They feel very happy, because they don’t want to see their children face the same problems they have faced with illiteracy.”

Barakat’s work is important for exactly that reason; so that the children our programs reach out to will not be stuck in the same cycle of illiteracy as their parents. Our students are in school, and Barakat’s mission to support education continues.