Educate a Child, Educate a Community
A community rich in tradition, but financially poor has prevented its children from gaining an education because of cultural and monetary set-backs. The Pakistani Welfare Forum, with the support of Qatar’s authorities, has made it its mission to uplift the community through educating the next generation.
Imagine if you weren’t able to go to school, not because you didn’t want to, but because you were not allowed. Imagine all the experiences you would miss out on—the friends you would never make, the school lunches you would never share, the games you would not play and the things you would never learn like reading and writing. This is the stark reality effecting an entire community right here in Qatar.
Behind the new road layout, behind the white-washed compounds lies a dusty dirt road with homes, which may also have once been painted white, but are now a sandy colour, reflecting the landscape. This area of Doha is home to the Baluch people who settled in Qatar almost 45 years ago. They came as economic migrants from Pakistan and Iran, and like so many others never left. It is also home to around 800 children. Many of whom are not in school. These third generation Baluch spend their days playing in their courtyards or helping around the home.
Qatar's Pakistan Welfare Forum (PWF) became aware of this community, along with others from different parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Iran.
"They came here in the early 70s", said Ahmad Hussain, an adviser to PWF and head of educational programmes. "Many of them work in the police force or the army, others find employment as drivers, cooks, or gardeners, and some are unemployed."
"The families are large and have limited income, so education becomes the least of their priorities. They cannot afford to send their children to school after feeding them and paying for their shelter. They also fear if they educate one child, they won't have money to educate the others."
The Baluch are a tribal people and in order to implement a change in mindset it was crucial to engage with the elders. So Hussain, along with other members of PWF, visited the elders of the Abu Hamour Baluch community to highlight the importance of education and to discuss ways to send their children to school. In doing so, Hussain and his team found it wasn't just financial constraints preventing these families from sending their children to school; it was also cultural.
UNESCO says children who are excluded from education often “face multiple and overlapping disadvantages.” It was these disadvantages that that the PWF wanted to eradicate.
Hussain says, "Apart from financial hardship, they lacked awareness about the importance of education. We explained and assured them that we will educate their children and teach them skills—PWF intends to start a vocational training programme—which will help them secure jobs. This will enable them to earn a respectable living. It will also help the next generation integrate with society—addressing the issue of their social deprivation.”
After these close interactions, the community now has a better awareness of the importance of education.
Razia Muhammad, 27 and a mother of three, is sending her children to the PWF preparatory school. She says, “I want my children to study, and have an educated future so that they can become something and add value to society.”
The PWF has acquired several small make-shift rooms in the grounds of the Pakistan Education Centre, and it’s here that children are taught the basics to prepare them for school life.
Sidra, is seven and has been attending the preparatory school for a year now. She says: “Before I was allowed to come to school, I used to dream about going to school.” One of nine children, she says the best thing about school is learning, and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up so that she can help people.
Another student, 10-year-old Ahmed, says, “English is my favourite subject. But the best thing about school is all the work we do, and subjects we learn. When I grow up, I’m going to become an engineer, insha’Allah.”
The PWF also works in offering family support, medical and legal aid, but its primary focus is education.
"We currently have about 500 children in our programme for whom we are fully responsible for their education through schooling. Since 2012, around 800 children and adults have benefited from our educational programme," says Hussain.
But a lot still needs to be done.
According to UNESCO, in 2011 there were 2,745 children in Qatar who were out of school. This figure includes those being prevented from an education—such as the Baluch children—as well as children being home-schooled.
Qatari authorities are working closely with the PWF to make the organisation’s mission statement—No child of school age should remain out of education in Qatar—a reality.
If you would like to support this initiative, please contact Ahmad Hussain on 55549833.