Pyam-e-Taleem Education Center: The Power to Make a Difference
By Rashida Faheem
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
------- Mother Teresa
Deep within all of us lies the aspiration to make a difference, to share what we have been fortunate enough to be given with others who are not that fortunate, to spread a ray of hope and to make this world a better place. This can only be achieved if we can change the way people think and the way they see themselves, and have pride in what they do. This is a task Dr. Soaliha Ahmed’s Pyam-e- Taleem Education Center, an institution where children and youth of all ages are provided free education and coaching, has very successfully achieved. Silent soldiers like Dr. Soaliha Ahmed have been lighting candles of hope every day, spreading compassion all around and making dreams come true.
“My contact with Pyam-e-Taleem and Dr. Soaliha Ahmed was a changing point, not just in my life, but for my entire family. She guided me and helped me to be what I am today. It was beyond my wildest dreams to be able to work for a bank, where I am employed at present”, says Amjad Hussain who, after completing his higher education, is currently working as a junior officer at Faysal Bank, Zamzama Branch, Karachi.
Meet Saba Jaffery, a young lady beaming with confidence and proudly sharing her story of success. She is serving as a staff member of the IT Department at Mohammad Ali Jinnah University, Karachi. “I was the first member of my family to go for higher education. Today my entire neighborhood understands the importance of female education and encourages and helps girls to pursue higher studies. This change was possible when I proved to them that I could do it. This confidence came through my exposure to a world different from mine at Pyam-e Taleem, and the constant guidance of Dr. Soaliha. She was my mentor on this journey towards betterment. ”
These are just two such stories of hope and success, but as you meet other students of Pyam-e-Taleem Education Center, your faith that change is possible is strengthened, the optimism and hope for a better world gets reinforced.
Payam-e-Taleem is not just a call to promote education in our society, but it is in fact a lasting impact of one single person on the lives of many like Amjad and Saba, who live in less fortunate areas of Karachi, where the appalling standard of education has almost diminished their hope of pursuing their dreams. Dr. Soaliha Ahmed with her project ‘Pyam-e-Talaeem Education Center’ continues to inspire them to be better people, strive harder and get the most out of life.
Dr. Soaliha Ahmed was born in a family where excelling in education was the guiding principle. She has a doctorate from the UK and was the Head of the Department and Professor of Botany at the University of Karachi. After retirement, with the encouragement of her husband Dr. Akhlaq Ahmad and her family, she decided to work towards providing an alternative to the government-run and private schools in the “katchi abadis” (shanty towns) of Karachi city, where the standard of education is despicable. She decided to do her share to change the way things were. Thus Pyam-e-Taleem was born from a sense of giving something back to her people. Being a teacher all her life, this came easily to her. She started the project with her domestic help in her own home, and soon the word spread around the neighboring katchi abadis. Parents started bringing their school-going children for help with their school-work because, with their own uneducated background, they themselves could not help them. Being at Pyam-e-Taleem also kept the children away from the streets after school hours. In the year 2000, Pyam-e-Taleem took a more structured shape and students were formally admitted and graded according to educational performance rather than their age.
“The valued goals of this institution are to nurture the wholesome personality of students by developing moral values, ethical and civic sense; to explore and expedite development of the hidden talents of students by providing opportunities; to concentrate mainly on English, Mathematics and Computer Science; to develop writing and communication skills; to increase their general knowledge about Pakistan, the world and the environment; to provide incentives and guidance for higher education, and to make funds available for this purpose” explains Dr. Soaliha, when asked about the objectives of Pyam-e-Taleem Education Center.
At present 70 students are registered in different classes. The Center is run entirely on the basis of donations from friends and family. Scholarships to higher-education institutions are granted to students with good results and those who show the potential. For those who want to fly higher, she makes sure that monetary hurdle is not in their way. In the last few years, several young men and women who came to Pyam-e-Taleem as little girls and boys, are now on their way to achieving what they once thought was impossible. Some of them are mentioned here:
Fatima is gradually inching towards her ultimate dream of doing her Doctorate and pursuing her career in academics. She is currently doing her Masters in Economics along with a job at the HR dept of Mohammed Ali Jinnah University. She also teaches in a school which is part of the social program of the University. She hopes that she, too, might light a candle and inspire another Fatima in the future.
Abid Hussain at 23, proudly occupying his desk as a G-9 officer at Standard Chartered Bank, says he is here because of his contact with Pyam-e-Taleem. “I would have spent my time on the street like others in my neighborhood and would have been doing menial tasks in some small private company, had I not been exposed to this institution and its founder Dr. Sohailha Ahmed.” Through Pyam-e-Taleem he was able to complete his B. Com from St. Patrick’s College, did an English language course from Pakistan American Cultural Center, and is now planning to register in an evening program for his business degree.
Sadaf Jaffery, an MBA graduate of the Defence Authority College of Business, is now responsible for the management of Pyam-e-Taleem. She shares the thoughts of others like her who benefited from this institution and is determined to keep this torch burning and spreading its light to others.
Naseema Arshad is a student of MSc Botany at Karachi University. Since 2009, she has been independently running the computer program at Pyam-e-Taleem, an important component of the teaching program at the center.
Somia Arshad is currently a BSS student at the Urdu University, with hopes of becoming a journalist someday.
These are just few living examples of people whose lives have been touched and changed for the better by Pyam-e-Taleem and a personality that envisaged this project - Dr. Soaliha Ahmed. Her achievements are impressive, and her commitment steadfast.