Inspirational Story of University-Going Daughters of Karachi's Rickshaw Driver

Three daughters of a Karachi rickshaw driver named Amjad Ali are attending top universities in Pakistan. All three graduated from The Citizens Foundation's K-12 schools located across Pakistan, including poor districts of Pakistan's megacity of nearly 20 million residents. Amina Amjad, the eldest is studying at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) to become a medical doctor, the second daughter is enrolled in Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZBIST) to become an engineer and the third Muskan Amjad is going to the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi's top business school on a full scholarship.

Girls' Education: 

Muskan Amjad
This would be unusual for a poor man's children attending top universities regardless of gender. What makes it particularly noteworthy is that these are daughters of a poor man in a country where girls' education is often ignored.  “People often mocked and criticized me, saying that girls are bound to get married and move out and to stop wasting my hard-earned money on my daughters,” Amjad Ali told hosts of Samaa TV, a private television channel in Pakistan.  The Citizens Foundation (TCF) making it possible by making K-12 education accessible and affordable for Pakistan's disadvantaged children.  There are many success stories of TCF alumni posted on TCF's Facebook page.

Back in 2013, another TCF alumna Anum Fatima, a resident of Ibrahim Goth slum located near Karachi's Steel Town, made history; she went to Harvard Business School as part of a student exchange program. Anum's father is employed as a driver and her mother works as a maid. The slum school she attended is run by The Citizen's Foundation (TCF), a private foundation.

Karachi Rickshaw Driver Amjad Ali and Family 

The Citizens Foundation: 

The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is a non-profit organization, and operates one of the largest privately owned networks of low-cost formal schools in Pakistan. The Foundation runs 1,567 school units, educating 252,000 students through 12,000 teachers and principals, with over 17,400 employees. It has very low overhead by Pakistani NGO's standards. Approximately 94% of the Foundation's expenditure is allocated to the Education program.

Pakistan Truck Art Message From A Girl: "Let me Study; Let me Advance"

TCF plays a very important role in the lives of its students during school and after they graduate. It runs an Alumni Development Program (ADP) where successful alumni inspire and mentor students and fellow TCF alumni.  Muskan Amjad volunteers for ADP.

If you read Pakistan media headlines and donation-seeking NGOs and activists' reports these days, you'd conclude that the social sector situation is entirely hopeless. However, if you look at children's education and health trend lines based on data from credible international sources, you would feel a sense of optimism. This exercise gives new meaning to what former US President Bill Clinton has said: Follow the trend lines, not the headlines. Unlike the alarming headlines, the trend lines in Pakistan show rising school enrollment rates and declining infant mortality rates.

Key Social Indicators:

The quickest way to assess Pakistan's social sector progress is to look at two key indicators:  School enrollment rates and infant mortality. These basic social indicators capture the state of schooling, nutrition and health care. Pakistan is continuing to make slow but steady progress on both of these indicators. Anything that can be done to accelerate the pace will help Pakistan move up to higher levels as proposed by Dr. Hans Rosling and adopted by the United Nations. 

Rising Primary Enrollment:

Gross enrollment in Pakistani primary schools exceeded 97% in 2016, up from 92% ten years ago. Gross enrollment rate (GER) is different from net enrollment rate (NER). The former refers to primary enrollment of all students of all ages while the latter counts enrolled students as percentage of students in the official primary age bracket. The primary NER in Pakistan is significantly lower but the higher GER indicates many of these kids eventually enroll in primary schools albeit at older ages. 

Source: World Bank Education Statistics

Declining Infant Mortality Rate: 

The infant mortality rate (IMR), defined as the number of deaths in children under 1 year of age per 1000 live births in the same year, is universally regarded as a highly sensitive (proxy) measure of population health.  A declining rate is an indication of improving health. IMR in Pakistan has declined from 86 in 1990-91 to 74 in 2012-13 and 62 in the latest survey in 2017-18.

Pakistan Child Mortality Rates. Source: PDHS 2017-18

During the 5 years immediately preceding the survey, the infant mortality rate (IMR) was 62 deaths per 1,000 live births. The child mortality rate was 13 deaths per 1,000 children surviving to age 12 months, while the overall under-5 mortality rate was 74 deaths per 1,000 live births. Eighty-four percent of all deaths among children under age 5 in Pakistan take place before a child’s first birthday, with 57% occurring during the first month of life (42 deaths per 1,000 live births).

Human Development Ranking:

It appears that improvements in education and health care indicators in Pakistan are slower than other countries in South Asia region. Pakistan's human development ranking plunged to 150 in 2018, down from 149 in 2017. It is worse than Bangladesh at 136, India at 130 and Nepal at 149. The decade of democracy under Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has produced the slowest annual human development growth rate in the last 30 years. The fastest growth in Pakistan human development was seen in 2000-2010, a decade dominated by President Musharraf's rule, according to the latest Human Development Report 2018.

UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) represents human progress in one indicator that combines information on people’s health, education and income.

Pakistan's Human Development Growth Rate By Decades. Source: HDR 2018

Pakistan saw average annual HDI (Human Development Index) growth rate of 1.08% in 1990-2000, 1.57% in 2000-2010 and 0.95% in 2010-2017, according to Human Development Indices and Indicators 2018 Statistical Update.  The fastest growth in Pakistan human development was seen in 2000-2010, a decade dominated by President Musharraf's rule, according to the latest Human Development Report 2018.

Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future:

Pakistani leaders should heed the recommendations of a recent report by the World Bank titled "Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future" regarding investments in the people. Here's a key excerpt of the World Bank report:

"Pakistan’s greatest asset is its people – a young population of 208 million. This large population can transform into a demographic dividend that drives economic growth. To achieve that, Pakistan must act fast and strategically to: i) manage population growth and improve maternal health, ii) improve early childhood development, focusing on nutrition and health, and iii) boost spending on education and skills for all, according to the report".


The story of Muskan Amjad shows that the state of Pakistan's social sector is not as dire as the headlines suggest. There's reason for optimism. Key indicators show that education and health care in Pakistan are improving but such improvements are slower than in other countries in South Asia region. Pakistan's human development ranking plunged to 150 in 2018, down from 149 in 2017. It is worse than Bangladesh at 136, India at 130 and Nepal at 149. The decade of democracy under Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has produced the slowest annual human development growth rate in the last 30 years. The fastest growth in Pakistan human development was seen in 2000-2010, a decade dominated by President Musharraf's rule, according to the latest Human Development Report 2018. One of the biggest challenges facing the PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan is to significantly accelerate human development rates in Pakistan.

Here's a video clip of Amjad Ali and his family's appearance on Samaa TV's Naya Din show:

Related Links:


Riaz Haq said…
Dubai-based ‘Coded Minds’ launching its Pakistan operations

Karachi: A Dubai-based global education company, Coded Minds, that offers iSTEAM (Innovation, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) subjects, is launching its Pakistan operations by organizing its first-ever summer camp in Karachi.

With a vision to bring good quality advanced technology education at the grassroots level, Coded Minds’s first Summer Camp in Karachi is being offered at an affordable cost.

“We are very excited that we will be able to serve the education sector in Pakistan,” says Omar Farooqui, founder, and president of Coded Minds. Since its launch, in 2017 the company has grown rapidly in the Middle East and Asia.

“We are now officially registered in Pakistan and we aim to provide the best education to the young generation of the country so that they can play a crucial role not just for Pakistan but also at the global level,” Farooqui said.

“There is a major misconception that technology education is expensive. It is completely the other way round. The price point of our first ever summer camp actually reflects the same. We believe quality education has not just to be affordable but also reachable to the grass root level.”

Farooqui, who has had meetings with President of Pakistan Dr Alvi and the Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood in February 2019, says that Pakistani talent can rule the world if they are provided with the right skills and education.

The five-day Summer Camp will continue from June 24-28 in the North Nazimabad area.

The courses offered are Introduction to Programming, Scratch Jr., App Development.

Children between the ages of 4-13 will be able to attend this course.
Riaz Haq said…
NETSOL’s Education Support Program Touching Lives

NETSOL’s Education Support Program (NESP) has proved to be a huge success after the company reported that it has hired 3 ambitious women who were the daughters of security guards working at NETSOL.

NETSOL has been actively involved in contributing to the education sector. The company has been recognized for its NESTOL Education Support Program (NESP) by PASHA Awards in 2019. The NESP Program is specifically designed to provide support to the children of underprivileged employees. The program covers almost 500 children who are working in NETSOL’s “Admin Support Function”. Moreover, the company makes sure that the children attend english-medium schools only. The students enrolled in the program can gain access to quality education from schools located all over Pakistan.

NETSOL’s effort to contribute to society has indeed bore fruit with the exciting news that three young females who are daughters of security guards have been hired in NETSOL’s IT department. The company stands true to its vision:
Riaz Haq said…
Congrats #ParagAgrawal! Now to all those “liberal” #Pakistanis bashing #Pakistan by invoking some of the worst #Islamophobic stereotypes of #Muslims as “terrorists”, here’s an uplifting story of a #Karachi slum girl who’s now a neurology resident in #US.

Dr. Sidra Saleem's story

I grew up in a very small urban slum, between New Karachi and Gulshan-e-Maymar in Karachi, Pakistan. These slums—called katchi abadis—are areas that are not recognized by the government and so they don't get access to healthcare, education and basic necessities. The houses are small, not well maintained and roads are not constructed properly so public transport doesn't service the area. Electricity is not available on any set schedule and we didn't have addresses to receive mail.

Our house had three rooms for myself and my four siblings, my parents and my grandparents, but there were people living in worse conditions around us. Some of our neighbours had up to 10 children and they lived in one room, all sleeping on the floor.

My father is from a very small village in central Pakistan but he migrated to our katchi abadi to work as a labourer and his monthly income was the equivalent of U.S. $200 a month. Our circumstances were difficult, $200 is nothing, so it was hard to make ends
meet and there was a constant struggle for basic necessities. We would have to think several times before buying a single item, and my family and I only bought new clothes on special occasions, once or twice a year. We never had the chance to dine out or go to malls. The whole world outside our neighborhood was a "different world" to us.
As a child, I had always wanted to be a doctor and in 6th grade I made the decision to pursue that goal. However, in the back of my mind I knew that the only way for me would be to get into a government funded medical school. Privately funded schools charged a lot, and I knew I wouldn't be able to afford it. But I knew I could work hard; that was in my hands.

When I was in grade 6 or 7, I also began tutoring other students and I continued doing that all the way through to the end of medical school. I didn't earn much, only $50-100 a month for up to four hours of tutoring a day. By 10th grade, when I was 15, all schools in the education system held exams for students. I was among the very top students, scoring around 90 percent in the exams.

That was one of the happiest days of my childhood, not only for me and my family but also for my teachers. It made all of us realize that I had a bright future ahead. I then received a scholarship from the State Bank of Pakistan and went to an intermediate college. Despite the college being far from my home, there was a contentment from knowing I didn't have to worry about finances.

However, the other students mostly came from very expensive private schools and had their own personal transport and personal tutors. It was difficult, because I was not able to participate in their conversations other than about school. That was the first time I really felt that life is unfair and harder for the poor. I remember I went home to talk with my old school teachers, and they encouraged me to make my comparisons based on intellect and hard work, not money. By the end of Grade 12, I ranked 24th out of over 10,000 students in Karachi.

But there aren't very many medical schools in Pakistan, and entry into them is competitive. And, out of thousands of students who apply, perhaps only a few hundred receive government scholarships. I was fortunate enough to be among the students who received a scholarship.
Riaz Haq said…
TCF Is Being Featured At Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Best Practice Programme

TCF started with a dream to educate the most vulnerable children of Pakistan, thus enabling them to create a better future for themselves, and become agents of positive change. While this dream started with five schools, today TCF’s school network is spread across Pakistan, with 1,687 schools present in even the most remote areas of the country.

TCF at Expo 2020 Dubai
As a testament to TCF’s promise to provide quality education, TCF has been selected as one of the top 25 projects worldwide to be showcased at the Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Best Practice Programme, ‘Small Steps, Big Leaps’, Solutions for Sustainable Impact. TCF was selected after a review of 1,175 applicant programmes from 141 countries by an international committee.

The Global Best Practice Programme is an initiative that recognises organisations from around the world that have provided tangible, adaptable and scalable solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. It sheds light on projects for global visibility and knowledge that are in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and have localised the Global Agenda in their countries, communities, neighbourhoods and households to ensure that no one is left behind. Amongst the five key topics the programme focuses on – including inclusive and sustainable service delivery, water and energy security, resilient habitats, and livelihoods and enterprise development – TCF has been selected in the social development category for its unique educational model in Pakistan.

The Global Best Practice Programme will highlight TCF from 2nd Dec 2021 – 2nd Jan 2022 as one of the successful and impactful solutions in the Best Practice Area (BPA) at Expo 2020 Dubai. The Best Practice Area (BPA) will be located in the Opportunity Pavilion next to the UN Hub at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The Best Practice Area (BPA) will be a multifunctional exhibition and programming space housed within the Opportunity Pavilion, where different development best practices will be showcased and shared, thus modelling the idea of an “interactive hub” as a reflection of Expo’s overall theme – Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.
Riaz Haq said…
ASER Report Findings:

These poor living conditions (in urban slums) are also reflected in the delivery of education. Around 20 percent of the urban slums surveyed did not have a government school. The majority of children living in the surveyed urban slums were enrolled in private schools (59 percent) that include madrassahs (eight percent) and non-formal education providers (one percent) and the remaining children (41 percent) were enrolled in government schools. Enrolment is higher in the 5-10 age bracket, while one in three children of 16-year-old is out of school.

There are also inter-district variations. Government school enrolment is higher in Lahore (59 percent) while private school enrolment is higher in Korangi, Karachi (again 59 percent). In terms of madrassah enrolment, it varies between two and three percent in Lahore, Malir, and Korangi, and it is 24 percent in Karachi-West where one in four children is studying in a madrassah.

Girls relatively fall behind in terms of enrolment. With regard to evaluating learning outcomes, children studying in urban slums lag behind the ASER assessment in 2019 in these very same districts conducted as part of the ASER survey. However, urban slums of these four districts are being assessed systematically for the first time in this pilot study.

According to the report, “In 2019, learning outcomes (5-16 year old) gathered in the same four districts revealed Urdu/Sindhi story reading at 46 percent, while in 2021 the four district katchi abadis, story reading in Urdu/Sindhi is 35 percent. For two-digit division in 2019, 41 percent children were competent, while in katchi abadis in 2021, it is 26 percent; in 2019, 46 percent children could read sentences in English, but in katchi abadis in 2021, 37 percent children can read English sentences. The challenges can be interrogated by gender, institution, mother tongue, psychosocial well-being etc.”

Despite challenges, girls performed relatively better in numeracy and literacy in urban slums. Similarly, children studying in private schools showed relatively better results than those studying in government schools. It is again something that has already been highlighted by me in an article ‘Private education’ (October 31) published on these pages. Madrassah students’ educational outcomes were extremely poor. Only 7.4 percent could read a story in Urdu/Sindhi, 10 percent could read sentences in English, and 4.4 percent of more than 400 madrassah students (5-16 years old) who were assessed as part of the pilot study could solve division problems.

The other important factors are learning in the mother tongue, household wealth, parents’ – particularly mother’s – education, technology availability and usage that are positively correlated with higher learning outcomes of children. The report also states that psychosocial well-being is important, and as someone who has always believed and practised in never ever giving up and always having a good fight with a positive frame of mind no matter how difficult and arduous circumstances might be at some point in one’s life, one sees the wisdom in including this variable in the report while assessing children’s well-being.

Another positive finding of the report is that technology and internet usage is prevalent in the majority of houses in urban slums. Roughly 80 percent of the households have mobile phones – 63 percent even have smartphones – and 21 percent have laptops/computers. In total, one-third of the participating households (33 percent) stated that they use the internet. This shows that there is tremendous potential for web-based technology-oriented learning and livelihoods solutions.

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