Pictured above is FLAME teacher Mrs Fouzia Jabeen who teaches in Landhi, Karachi . Fouzia isrom the noAME in one house, each taking one floor of the same house for their class; between them they teach 63 pupils from their locality.
Fouzia studied in the northern areas of Pakistan . After she finished her high school studies, she went to medical college for a year. Achieving this level of education was a constant struggle for Fouzia. At the age of 15, her father began to object to her education.
In his opinion, she was now becoming a woman and should be married and stop with her education, his main priority being her reputation and safety. Her father decided to stop her education at 6 th class, despite Fouzia's frustration at this decision and her desire to continue studying. Fouzia went on hunger strike for three days in order to force him to listen to her. Finally, her father gave in and gave the duty of picking and dropping her to school to a male cousin, whom he trusted.
Later that year, at 18 years old, Fouzia was selected for a competition for speech and debate. Fouzia enjoyed participating and was selected for the final round, which she had secretly entered and while attending the ceremony, it was announced that she had received first prize. Fouzia sat still and froze on her chair, she was so scared of her family finding out and punishing her, she didn't want to go on stage and accept the award. Her friends encouraged her to go up and accept and people began to clap, newspaper journalists were there and photographers began to take her picture. Fouzia had no choice but to go on stage and accept the award despite the possible ramifications that she feared back at home. When Fouzia went up onto the stage she couldn't believe her eyes when she saw her father, in the front row of the audience, proudly clapping at her achievement. She simply couldn't believe it. Gradually, people gave him respect in their community for having such an able and educated daughter and his attitude to her studies shifted. He became proud. Soon after this Fouzia was to be married, at 19 years old to a local Kashmiri man and her studies were stopped, despite her efforts to continue, since her duty was now to be in the home.
Fouzia's mother had become very sick and they were forced to move down to Karachi in search of work. 'How does it feel to now teach and earn your own wage' I asked: Fouzia replied 'I never thought I could earn my own money. Since I was educated, I felt my goal in life was to carry the responsibility this involves, but I never envisaged this. In a community as impoverished as this,
it became my duty to be a leading example to those around me, to become a role model to those without education, to give them the desire to force others to take control of their lives, to convince them to educate their own children.' After marriage, living in a dark gully in Landhi: one of the largest slums of Karachi , Fouzia needed money. She now feels that by passing her education over to children she is making a difference at last, whilst earning a little money of her own. This would never have been possible if she was required to leave the home and travel to work, the flexible non-formal school system provided her with an opportunity to work and transfer her skills to others.
Her basic training as a health worker also plays a large part ion her valuable role for FLAME. Fouzia mentioned that local women, at first would not let her teach their children, she even received physical slaps from one family for asking them to send their children to her house for free education. Now she said proudly, three years later, her home is full of local children of all ages coming to learn to read and write, many of them having never been to school before. Often local women come to her and ask her in secret, questions about their pregnancies, their health and their families' illnesses: women too scared and too impoverished to ask a doctor. 'You can't buy these feelings' Fouzia commented. 'I am absolutely making a difference. Women that wouldn't open the door to me now come for advice.' So, I asked: 'When will you become the next president of Pakistan ?! ' Fouzia replied ' When I have the money you need in Pakistan to bribe the right people to actually make a difference! ' Fouzia laughed, 'Seriously. There are two things I would change if I could: corruption and the plight of women. Women need permission for everything, we are so constrained, even the food we cook, we select the best for the men. Education should be a priority, many children still can't go to school, and the government does so little.
I want to be a good example for others to follow. This is my responsibility and duty.
Often the smaller, more personal stories, telling of FLAMES impact on lives get lost in all the hard work as the demand for more schools, vocational training centers and more funds grows each day, it is difficult to record the details.
Mr Alam, FLAME's chairman, has a habit of accosting children in the least likely of places and responding to demands as best he can, whether it be a child selling flowers on the street or a child sweeping the floor. Grandmother Kundan Karam Ilahi and her granddaughter Afsana Nazir Ahmad, were busy sweeping the steps outside his Karachi home. 'Do you go to school?' 'No' Afsana replied. 'We are too poor to afford the fees.' 'Would you join a school if I opened one?' Mr Alam asked, 'yes' came the prompt reply. The grandmother added with equal interest 'I want to send my child to a school, please open one.' Presented with such keenness
Mr Alam replied 'bring me twenty children and I will open a free school.' The next day, the pair had bought together thirty children to the gate of the house. Within days a school was opened in the premises of an existing 'Defense Housing Authority' school, in the afternoons, in the school playground, when the school lies unused each afternoon. It now has forty five children. All given a fresh start in life and a new identity, sense of self worth and pride. Afsana wants to become a doctor and is finishing three years study in just one year, despite minding her younger siblings when not attending the school; she wants to fill the five year gap. Another child attending the school brings her three year old brother with her when no one can look after him; she is so intent on not missing out.
Afsana studies with dedication to attempt to cover the years of education lost due to poverty, so that she can catch up and achieve her dream of becoming a doctor. She is now sure she will become a doctor, her fate and her hard work will enable her to realize her dream, she told me with a smile. She is elated to be back at school and hates the idea of ever having to sweep steps again, her brother and cousin also study at the FLAME school and another brother is shortly to follow.
Kundan: 'My fortune has blossomed since this school was opened. I love to see them smile.' Each child that walks with a little more pride in their steps tells the story of FLAME's success.
On this note, everyone here at FLAME, would like to take this opportunity to thank you once more for your valuable contributions and the interest, without which none of our work would be possible.