Pakistan ‘Street Schools’ Open to Poor Kids, Parents

29 May, 2018

A different kind of school in Pakistan is giving poor children, and sometimes their mothers too, a new chance to get an education.

The program is called Street to School. Organizers launched it in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2014. The idea was to create a school for children who played on the streets every day while their parents worked. Some parents chose not to send their children to school, while others did not have enough money to do so.

The founder of Street to School is Mohammad Hassan. He says children who spend all day on the streets are at risk for a number of reasons. They are in danger of catching dangerous diseases and can also be caught up in crime and drug use. Others are forced to work.

Street to School is a way to keep these children off the streets, while providing them with a basic education and useful life skills.

Children and adults attend class at the Street to School program in Karachi, Pakistan.
Children and adults attend class at the Street to School program in Karachi, Pakistan.

Hassan says the preschool education program centers on reading, writing and mathematics. Students are also taught English as well as the local language, Urdu. In addition, Street to School includes sports activities and provides students with information on how to stay healthy and take care of themselves.

Hassan says Street to School has been successful in getting children off the streets and on a new path toward an education in traditional schools. But running the school also taught him about another great need in the community.

"We started this project for kids. But we found out very quickly the kids would bring their homework diaries without parents' signatures. That meant kids were not getting the needed help at home to do their homework. So, we decided to create a special course for these parents so that they can have basic literacy to help their kids."

Uzma is a wife and mother who decided for herself she wanted to join Street to School.

"I talked to my husband. He gave me his permission, which is a huge deal. So many women don't get this opportunity. This is why I am here today. I come here, and I study with God's blessing. I have learned enough now that I don't feel dependent on anyone."

Tahira Bibi is a grandmother who has always worked as a clothes maker and never got the chance to attend school. She cannot read or write. She says watching her grandchildren moved her to act.

"When I saw both my grandson and granddaughter studying, I also developed an interest in learning. I believe that knowledge has no age. People age, but knowledge never does, it has no limitation."

The Street to School program now teaches 15 adult women and Hassan expects this number to keep growing.

Karachi has other educational programs for street children. One of them is called The Street School. Two teenagers, Hasan and Shireen Zafar, started the program. It aims to bring education to the streets for groups of needy children around the city.

The founders told Pakistan's Dunya News television they decided to launch the school after a girl came up to them and asked an unusual question. Instead of asking for money, the girl asked, "Will you teach me?"

The program started out with just two students, but grew to more than 200. The Zafars told Dunya News one of their main goals is to prevent people from abusing children as laborers.

The Street School also has begun to teach some adults, most of whom are parents of children involved in the program.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Shayan Saleem reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English, with additional information from other sources. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

diary n. book containing information about meetings and other things to remember

signature n. a person's name written in their own handwriting

literacy n. ability to read and write

opportunity n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

blessing n. approval given by someone gives for a plan or action