Learning the value of schools

I wish I went to a school with a name like Holy Shepherd Grammar School or for that matter with one with its values and attitudes only I didn’t. I’m now very grateful for the education I’ve received and the more I visit schools in developing countries the more grateful I become.

My friend Dave took me out to visit this school on the outskirts of Karachi, which is supported by Starfish Asia. It’s a bit of a trek into a dusty, dirty, poor edge of the city but oh my goodness was it worth it.

To understand why this school (and so many others like it) is so inspirational, let me give you some background. Christians are a poor minority in this country and education is the way to get jobs in a country where millions struggle to find gainful employment in even the most basic of jobs.

The government schools are often terrible, overcrowded, under resourced with teachers that can’t be bothered. Not so at Holy Shepherd Grammar School.

They charge 50 rupees a month although that’s going up to a 100 rupees.  Imagine our shock at the doubling of fees but 100 rupees isn’t even £1. Maybe it’s a dollar. And for the poorest who can’t even afford that, they go free. But they get real value for money. I saw classroom after classroom of happy, smiling, children. I got a round of applause just for visiting. They have a really high retention rate, students come back to work at the school, it’s well run, with caring teachers and visionary leadership.

The school is run by Anser Javed and his wife Kashi and it has 535 pupils aged from 3-18. They run in two shifts with the youngsters in the morning and the older ones in the afternoon. The school has been going about 8 years and is expanding fast. They have a vision to expand to 1000 students and add a vocational training school for 200 so school leavers can get extra skills to help them get jobs. It has growing influence in the community (Christian and Muslim) and teaches with Christian integrity and honesty. It is producing saints as well as scholars.

They’re now giving children milk and a banana free each day, in addition to free places, books, uniforms for the poorest who can’t afford £1 a month to educate their children. But more could be done. They want a bus to get the young women safely home in the evening (it’s not always safe for young girls to walk home on their own) and teachers being paid £50 a month could probably do with a raise.

I don’t think it is exaggerating to say that the education offered here is changing lives. Why not consider helping this great school do more. You can read about the school on its blog and you can give through Starfish Asia (I reviewed this excellent book on Generosity by the founder of Starfish Michael Wakely).

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