Harnessing Local Community Support for Education

Over the last three years Barakat has been navigating a course that takes us away from a single donor model towards a multi-faceted donor base composed of individuals and organizations committed to our cause and to our grassroots approach. Making this transition during economically troubled times has been challenging for us; but it has also given us an opportunity to welcome the support of old friends, who have stood by Barakat’s endeavours to promote female education in their own community.

One such person is Mohammad Abdullah, a young Afghan refugee in Pakistan, who has seen Barakat’s work grow from one school in 1994 to its current outreach of over 3000 beneficiaries. Mohammad is now established in his own right as a carpet businessman – he is both well to-do and committed to Barakat’s mission, with the understanding that it plays a crucial role in the welfare of his people:“My personal view is that the education of children, male and female, is important and imperative for the future of our country and its welfare. In the rural areas (of Afghanistan) cultural tradition is a nearly unbreakable barrier that prevents ideas and change from developing and evolving with

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the momentum that would be hoped for. However inroads are being made, and given a chance, when uneducated people who have wisdom in their hearts and beings realise that the future of their families,communities and nation will grow stronger when all children have a chance for education. The proud Afghan Turkmen traditions can still be kept, but with the light of education to shine throughout them.”

With this motivation guiding his hand, Mohammad Abdullah met with Barakat Pakistan staff and offered his help, which was welcomed and accepted in the form of a new electrical generator for Ersari Elementary School. Barakat Pakistan Evening Schools for Girls run year-round, even through the hot summer months when temperatures go up to more than 100 F habitually, and power cuts become routine.

In the developed world, there is an emphasis on students coming to school ‘ready to learn’ and on the school being able to provide the inputs necessary to create the best possible learning environment. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, where Barakat works, we also strive to meet both aspects of this equation. Students, especially girls, often struggle to make school a part of their ‘daily routine’ – what with the many other requirements on their time and person at home. At the other end, Barakat schools also aim to create a healthy learning environment where students feel comfortable and well equipped to concentrate in school. A generator goes a long way in ensuring just that!

Realizing this fact, Mohammad Abdullah said of his donation, “Every penny counts. I am aware and have been aware, that there are some families who are unable to afford even one dollar for school, as well as there being inadequate supplies available. Whatever I have given hopefully has furthered the aims of helping our children.”

Barakat’s work among the Afghan refugees in Pakistan is now well accepted among our beneficiary community and demand for our services continues to grow. From being a community of first-generation learners, the Afghan refugees are now passing on this ‘culture of learning’ to their children. Mohammad Abdullah’s sons and daughters go to school and he re-iterates that, “Education is both important and necessary for the advancement of our society, which is made up of individuals. As a parent I would only want the very best for my children and their future lives. Is this not the desire of parents everywhere And for them, inshallah, I can give them the gift of education.”

This commitment towards education for all is what we aim to achieve through our programs; our community of beneficiaries is becoming active in demanding the best possible education for its boys and girls, while also taking ownership of Barakat’s programs and sharing our concerns and costs.