But Sami has a new question. Sami has had this question since 1981. From the year before I started at BVS.
Don’t other children deserve to be happy? To be confident? To grow? To find their own Dina M. Mistri? To dance away with the wind and look at loving faces that look back with pride and joy? To whisper that I want to go to school here…
Twelve years ago Sami and the book group went about answering this question. Do children deserve no better than what they get in a government school?
They found that the problem is not money, there is enough available. It is not political will, despite our numerous short comings, good projects still get sanctioned. It is the psychological mindset that poor children deserve no better than what they get in a government school. A mindset that implies that they have a choice…
To make a difference you need to begin with changing this mindset. In 1995 Sami started with a Government Girl primary school in Karachi to prove every one wrong. The idea was simple, take the CAS School model and implement it in a setting where no one would expect it to work or succeed. What did it involve?
- Reducing class size from 80 to 40
- Building new rooms to accommodate additional sections
- Getting rid of the cane or corporal punishment
- Introduction of new interactive subjects covering art, music and story telling
- Training teachers
- New books, stationary and art material provided free of cost
In 1999 the group added two more schools in Mirpur Sakro (District Thatta) to implement the same model outside of Karachi. In 2003 the process was repeated for a government elementary school in Rahim Yar Khan (Punjab). In each instance they found that the community of students, teachers and parents was more than willing to work with the program, that government teachers, with a little training and hand holding, could teach just as well.
Sami’s grand plan was to prove that with the right combination of vision, direction and support, the school system in this country can work – within its limited resources. It was meant as an acknowledgement that no NGO or donor agency can replace the government in delivering education to our young children. And the dialogue started with these four experiments will help set policy direction in education reform.