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Pakistan: Towards a Brighter Future
In education lies the answer to peace and prosperity
Fiza Fatima Asar (FizaPK)     Print Article 
Published 2008-05-30 09:56 (KST)   
Education brings a brighter future
©2008 The Citizens Foundation
When I sat with Saba Hameed last summer in Lahore, the cultural centre of Pakistan, our meeting which was supposed to last an hour turned into a day's event.

Our conversation which ranged from poetry to politics, and wealth (or the lack of it) to education was more fruitful than many conversations I have engaged in with people I may meet every day of my life. The confidence in her face, the calmness in her smile and the glimmer in her eyes was stronger than that I had ever seen before and yet deep down I was not sure where fate would take her next.

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Given the limited opportunities she had being born in a farmer's family in a small conservative village of Punjab, I could only wish that her intelligence and spark for life would meet its rewards.

When a couple of months later I learned of her results in grade 12, I had tears of joy, rather elation, in my eyes. My anxiety for her and the girls of her community had been turned wrong. Saba, the farmer's daughter, the girl who had lived in a village called Minhala, all her life, had secured third position in her intermediate board examinations all across the Lahore Board (one of the largest educational Boards of Pakistan).

Saba had proved that her hard work and her passion to learn could reap its rewards despite her background. As she stood next to her much more privileged counterparts to receive an award from the Ministry of Education in Punjab, she smiled with pride. She had proven that the real hope for Pakistan lay in educating its masses, educating those who may not have the same opportunities for life as the more financially blessed ones, because it is them who hold the talent and the courage to take Pakistan to greater heights.

I was not just extremely happy for Saba but also for those who are affiliated with the not-for-profit school and its organization where Saba completed her intermediate from. I was happy for the teachers who taught her, the donor who built the school, the contributors who helped run the school, the driver who drove the teachers to the school, hence happy for every soul attached to Saba's victory.

I celebrated Saba's achievement as a victory for the people supporting the cause of education and for every other girl receiving education against all odds. I rejoiced the victory of women and their empowerment.

Saba is a friend of mine -- a friend who has taught me to be grateful for what I have and to be hopeful for my country. In Saba's example, I find courage to fight against my odds, I find reason to thank others and the larger Being, I find calmness that I need after the politics of the country disturbs me -- in her example I find a moment to not complain!

Saba has been with a school run by a national NGO called The Citizens Foundation since grade 6 and her journey till grade 12 has not been an easy one. There were periods in her life when her mother felt that Saba, as a girl, had studied enough, and moments when she herself was not sure how long she could carry on.

It was in these moments her father stood by her as her confidante and mentor. He met a dangerous accident that almost took his life but even from the hospital bed, he called her to tell her not to give up her dream. With the support of her principal and teachers and the trust her father had reposed in her, Saba continued through her academic career steadfastly making the path towards schooling for the younger members of her family easier. Today, education for her younger female cousins is taken for granted -- nobody asks them to leave school, no body argues with them over the importance of education.

I can only imagine how proud her family and community must be. They have allowed her to continue her education. She was also engaged recently to her cousin, who takes pride in her achievements. I can only smile when I think how her children will have a mother convinced of her family's need for education. I can only be proud of saying that she will be an intelligent young woman, an educated woman leading the future of Pakistan towards real enlightenment.

Saba wants to be a lecturer in a college or university. She has a passion for reading Urdu poetry and she is an excellent orator. At a ceremony held by The Citizens Foundation where she received a medal and prize for her performance, Saba read out a poem she wrote for her faculty and mentors. The tears in every eye, in an audience of thousands were tears of joy and hope, of pride and satisfaction.

The eloquence of her words and the conviction in her speech taught me that education was not just a matter of reading and rote-learning -- education's end result is enlightenment and wisdom, a destiny that is only reached when the journey entails passion for learning and the love for teaching and a heart for sharing. She was a source of encouragement for me -- a source of optimism in the future.

She is an agent of positive change for me.

©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Fiza Fatima Asar

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