I returned recently from three weeks in Pakistan and was struck by a number of changes since my last visit in September of 2011. The most dramatic, and horrific, event was the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year old student activist, who was shot and critically injured along with two classmates in October. As I was driving behind an auto rickshaw one evening, I saw that it had been plastered with a huge picture of Malala and the message that all peace-loving Pakistanis wished her a speedy recovery and return home. I was also heartened by a large event organized in Lahore on United Nations Malala Day. There were hundreds of school children present—both girls and boys—and young women students from colleges around Lahore. Several children spoke about how Malala inspired them and how they joined with her in affirming the right of all girls to education. I felt truly lucky to be in Pakistan at such a moment.
Security in the northwest has certainly been affected by resurgent Taliban activity. Luckily, there has been no negative impact on our schools thus far. Since foreigners are restricted from traveling in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa these days, I was disappointed in my attempts to visit our sponsored schools in Mansehra District. Instead, our wonderful partners, the Friends Welfare Association, met with me in Islamabad for a very productive day of meetings and were thoughtful in sharing many photographic images of the schools I could not see myself.
At the Al-Hamd School in Baagrian, I was amazed to realize how close the city has come to the village. Since 2007, when our partnership began, the expansion has covered several kilometers. There’s a lot of new development at the school too. The construction project on the school’s roof is nearly complete, with a science lab, a new library, and a classroom for the college preparatory classes (F.A.) that will begin in the new year. Enrollments are at capacity, and we have good, committed teachers and a very capable, dedicated administrator in Raja Ghazanfar Ali. I was able to talk to mothers about how the school has impacted their lives and those of their children. They were all very enthusiastic and thanked our donors!
I list below details about our programs for those of you who wish to read further.
We continue to support enrichment programs at Al-Hamd and have added some:
- Staff Professional Development: We pay all fees for seven faculty members who attend evening classes in pursuit of higher credentials.
- F.A., or college prep, classes will begin in 2013.
- Evening classes are offered for the benefit of working girls and women.
- Library Bus (bookmobile) visits the school every month.
- Medical Vouchers Program ensures that students and their families can receive free medical treatment. More than 200 vouchers are used every month.
Developments with Friends Welfare Association in Mansehra District, KPK:
- Government Girls’ Middle School, Paras was expanded to open a new Girls’ High School. Every single student was promoted in March 2012—a remarkable achievement. Enrollments have doubled this year to 30 students.
- Government Girls’ Middle School, Sathangali was upgraded to a High School by the Govt. Education Office, which resumed administrative responsibility after a four-year interim, allowing us to undertake sponsorship of a new school next year.
- Community Managed Girls’ Middle School, Jabbar Gali, was upgraded to a Government High School, a huge accomplishment for the village. We hope to sponsor graduates for teacher training and midwifery or nursing courses.
- We continue to support secondary schools in the villages of Manda Gucha and Meil Butt. A magnet Girls’ High School is to be opened in 2013, thanks to the cooperation of Friends Welfare Association and KnK-Japan Foundation. Hoshyar will pay the costs of running it.
Establishment of two new funds at Hoshyar:
- Zaida Petievich Scholarship Fund for Future Teachers, to support college-level scholarships for F.A. graduates. A cash prize will also be awarded to the top science student in each of our sponsored schools.
- Fund to Honor Malala Yousafzai. With a target of raising $30,000, this fund was started to build a school in Malala’s name. Every time thugs attempt to terrorize girls and their families, we will quietly but firmly try to keep doors open. We believe that education is a human right.
You can see both funds’ growth by visiting the Donate section of our newly-launched website, which also includes numerous resources for learning about Pakistan and the environment for girls’ education. All of this has been made possible through your generous donations and moral support. Not to mention the dedication of the volunteers who run the Hoshyar Foundation. We could not do it without you and we thank you so much.