Education is the first step towards change but unfortunately the saying is unheard of in our context. While poverty is skyrocketing, education for the poor is only becoming a farfetched dream.
Baithak School System is a hope towards betterment. It operates under the banner of Society for Educational Welfare (SEW); a movement organized by female volunteers to educate the destitute children across the country.
It didn’t start as a school system; rather it was a single room and a few fresh graduates from Karachi University who took up the gigantic task of teaching those who can’t pay for their education. Tayaba Atif and her enthusiastic friends took the initiative to payback the society, what they have received from it, in the form of education. These amazing womenfolk joined hands to make a difference in the world around. Their goal was simple yet sacred; to contribute to the society by teaching poor kids in an area where there was no government school and hence the first Baithak School was established.
The feedback was great; more people were motivated by the move which helped gather human and financial resources and within short span of two years, 57 baithak schools were opened where there was a void in educational institutes. Schools were more focused on imparting primary education to those kids who usually wouldn’t turn up to the schools. Social activists went door to door to convince the parents to send their kids to school. Things started improving and now almost 14000 students are studying in 134 baithak schools across the country. In the year 2000, Society for Educational Welfare (SEW) was registered as a non-profit organization to provide an umbrella cover for the school system.
The aim of the Baithak schools is to provide quality education to the under privileged students. Even with low level infra-structure, high quality education can be imparted to those who cannot afford it. More focus is placed on females and hence 80% students are girls in these schools. Funds and donations are raised for children who cannot afford their school books and uniforms. There are some salaried teachers, but most of the staff and entire management consist of dedicated volunteers.
There is more to the SEW than this. It is totally managed by female volunteers, a rarity in our society. Pakistan is a country, where women are usually tagged as being victims of violence and oppression. The idea propagated is that they are not allowed to work in the main stream. “The developed world” curiously questions if women are allowed to go outside their homes and get education in Pakistan. In this scenario, an organization, fully organized and managed by women and engaged in doing something meaningful and progressive is more than just appreciable.