Site Visit Account: Passion for Education – Visiting Bunyad-e-Fatima Primary School in Natt Kalan Village

By Maheen Qureshi

During June 2013, Maheen Qureshi and Mohammad Jahanzaib conducted the site-visit for the ADP funded education project: construction of the Bunyad-e-Fatima Secondary school in Natt Kalan village. Here’s an account of their experience.

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ADP is actively looking for funds for this project. 

With the sun heavily beating down and acres of barren land in the midst, I knew it would be a difficult trip as we went barreling down the kuchi road. Gazing at the derelict school building in front of me, my spirits sank a little lower. With paint peeling off the walls and the damaged windows, it seemed like a neglected place, which the villagers had little or no interest in. Little did I know that the sight that awaited me inside would change my outlook completely.

Despite the grueling summer heat and lack of water available in the school, summer classes were in full swing. Bright and adorable faces scrubbed clean were filled to the brim in the small classes eagerly awaiting our arrival. Their love for studying and the teachers’ dedication in teaching was a truly inspiring phenomenon to see, so unlike the majority of low-cost schools in the nation. However, despite the commitment, the school faced some serious challenges. The lack of electricity in the school made it extremely difficult to sit in the school and darkness at the back of the classes made it impossible to study. Another alarming situation in the school was the seepage in the walls and the constant dripping water from the ceiling that needed immediate attention.

Seepage in classroom walls - photo credit Mohammad Jahanzaib

Seepage in classroom walls – photo credit Mohammad Jahanzaib

As a volunteer with Association of Development of Pakistan (ADP), I was assigned the task of evaluating the Bunyad-e-Fatima School to assess whether the need for constructing a secondary school would be beneficial in the long-run. The school had ample land but required the funding to build a bigger school that would serve as the only secondary and higher educational facility in the nearby vicinity for girls. The funding was to also support the maintenance and repair of the existing building while providing electricity, clean drinking water and washrooms.

Broken Boundary Wall - photo credit: Mohammad Jahanzaib

Broken Boundary Wall – photo credit: Mohammad Jahanzaib

As I moved forward to conduct the site visit, I was pleasantly surprised with the responses I received during teacher interviews. Bunyad’s team had deeply inculcated innovative pedagogy styles that were being practiced inside the classrooms. To accelerate understanding and develop critical thinking, teachers used small objects, tools, songs and activities. Amazingly, rote-learning was minimal and small projects and application-based learning was practiced to open minds and create thinkers and doers. Learning competencies of students assessed through simple tests also highlighted good learning levels and a firm grasp over the subjects taught. The reverence and love students had for their teachers was a touching sight. This wonderful relationship was depicted in the desire expressed by 90 percent of the students to go into the teaching profession.

Upon interviewing the elders and parents of the students, I realized that the decision-making in the school was inextricably linked to the community. Being a close-knit village, all residents shared a keen interest in learning and took care of the school in every chance they could get. The majority of them were well-settled in the locality and had no intentions of moving to other parts of Lahore.

Interviewing some of the parents showed me how involved and committed they were in sending their children to school and ensuring that their children learnt how to read and write. Many mothers shared their happiness with the school’s management and the positive changes that the Bunyad-e-Fatimah School had brought in their lives. They stated that one of the primary reasons for them sending their children to the school was the continuous education their children could get and the dedication of the teachers. Although two primary government schools located nearby provided free education, their lack of teachers and poor quality education acted as a major hindrance in parents sending their children there. I was pleased to see that preference was given to quality even if a certain amount had to be paid in the shape fees.

Girls in Class - photo credit: Mohammad Jahanzaib

Girls in Class – photo credit: Mohammad Jahanzaib

Through my interaction with the villagers, I learnt the instrumental role of the school in eradicating illiteracy. Along with providing education to youth, there were evening classes being held for illiterate adults to teach them about basic numeracy, English and Urdu, which would help in creating sustainable livelihoods. It was heartening to see the passion the villagers had in making the Bunyad-e-Fatima School a center for learning that would educate all their future generations.

With ADP funding on the way their dream is about to be realized finally.