When I shifted to Karachi at the age of 18 years for further studies I happened to meet some philanthropist and some social organizations who observing my bent of mind and potentialities invited me to join them and do some social work for needy and less privileged people. Thus I actively engaged myself in social welfare activities particularly in suburb and slum areas like, Orangi Town, Landhi and korangi areas. There is a long history of my performance provided to the deprived and down trodden class of people and specially destitute children in those areas. Initially, the social services conducted by me were mainly confined to material help like supply of flour, beans and vegetables and other household items to the families who migrated from East Pakistan after 1971 war.I managed to supply sewing machines to poor wives and widows to the displaced families, books and stationary to young children. On the eve of Eid-Ul-Azha and other national days I used to distribute meat and other gift items so that they may not feel isolated of deprived on those important national days. I continued welfare activities as such for a considerable time. But during the period I realized that despite of my efforts, devotion and dedication no change was coming up among those people’s mind and character. Their thinking and attitude was much diverting to beggary style of life instead of self supporting. The men and children were indulged in antisocial activities even women were involved in black mailing and evils. The material provided for their use was covertly sold by them.
At this situation I was extremely frustrated. After deep thinking I decided to stop this type of welfare activities. Since quite long I had a thinking the education was the only solution which could bring change in the society and benefit the nation. So, I planned to establish a school for this purpose. I surveyed several backward localities of Karachi where the parents and children have no concept of education. Incidentally, I found a big community living in Kachi Abadi (Slum Area) in New Karachi known as Mustafa Colony who were living without any civic facility. It was comprised of community of people which are mainly labors, hawkers, waiters, maids, factory workers and many jobless. The general atmosphere of the colony was full of evils like addiction, robbery, child labor, wondering and gambling etc. There was no school in the said Colony. As such, the literacy rate of the population of this area was almost nil. I started a primary education school of one room by hiring a hut/jhuggi in that area by admitting 3-4 students and now the total strength of our schools is more than 4500. For information I mention here under the challenges I had confronted in the beginning and also being faced at present in working for educational projects in Slum areas.
i. At the outset, most difficult task which I happen to face was to convince the parents of boys and girls for allowing their children to join the school for education where no financial burden on them as all books and stationary will be provided to the children free of cost. This was unbelievable for them.
ii. The poor parents demanded compensation for taking away their children for schooling. Actually children were financial asset for them in shape of child-labor.
iii. The main problem faced and being faced still today is that well qualified teachers are not ready to work with us because of location of our projects. They demand high salaries to join us. On the other hand, due to limited funds we can not pay salaries as demanded by them. So we try to get the maximum output from the existing lot of teachers. I have devised a curriculum in a non traditional pattern for teaching in school and arrange special training’s and refreshers courses for teachers. Besides teaching I do my best to develop thinking in the minds of our teaching staff of Al-Khair that they are not usual participants or stake holder in our projects but should develop special characteristics for serving distressed and deprived class of our society. Fortunately, we have been successful in changing mindset of teachers as well as students in this regard. Incidentally, it is to mention that presently 60% of our teaching staff is comprised of those students who have obtained education from the same school and they are female teachers.
iv. At times we experienced that whenever economic crises occurs in our country, it affects our school’s working. Most of the guardians / parents pull out their children from school and force them to do some job and earn livelihood for the family. Also sometimes children on their own decide to leave the school which increases the number of drop outs. In the first situation we try to provide financial and material help to such families by providing them food and ration and compel the parents not to discontinue the schooling of their children. In second case we chase such students and approach them as well as their parents for rejoining our school. By doing so, oftenly we succeed in our efforts. From our record, we observed that during our working for last 32 years about 8000 students left during primary education, about 2500 students left during middle class and about 800 students left during Matriculation. Anyhow, we feel a state of satisfaction to the effect that these children and now grown up persons cannot be treated as “illiterate” because they can read and write.