By Cathleen O’Grady
Part of the story of The Citizens Foundation, Foundation Beyond Belief’s current Education beneficiary, can be told with its impressive statistics. TCF has grown from just five schools and 800 students in 1996 to an astounding 830 schools across five provinces, 115,000 students, and an all-female faculty of 5800 women in 2013.
The 1,678 graduates in 2012 achieved a 90% pass rate in the Secondary Board Examination, with 14% of those who passed achieving an A+ grade, and a further 39% achieving an A. 530 fifth graders achieved a 100% pass rate in the Punjab Primary Board Examination, and an astonishing 83% of these students achieved an A or A+ grade.
But the power of TCF’s work goes beyond the numbers, and can be seen in the individual impact on the lives of each of those 115,000 students. A trend is apparent in the profiles of TCF students: Each of these children comes from a desperately poor community and family—and every student is determined to pour her good fortune back into the lives of those around her.
The main aim of Zubaida, a primary school student, is to “impart education to her less privileged neighbors who cannot afford to go to school.” Sughra, 16, has “high ambitions to help the people of her village.” Gul, an eighth-grader in Jam Kando Goth, wants to become a doctor so that “she can help diabetic patients like her father,” whose diabetes has led to the amputation of both his legs. Many students dream of entering medicine, and some TCF alumni are well on their way to achieving their goal: Sidra, Shahida, and Zakia, all young women who have thrived at TCF, are on their way to three of the most prestigious medical schools in Pakistan.
The Citizens Foundation is undoubtedly a remarkably successful and constantly growing education project, but it reaches further than simply providing education to those most in need, by also working on combating the ways in which poverty can affect a child’s education. It operates with an understanding that many of its students spend time outside school working to support their families and keeps close track on school attendance. Jobs are created in needy communities, and mothers working for TCF are provided with an opportunity to support their families. Programs on health and hygiene are delivered across TCF campuses, helping to protect children living in poverty against illness. The Rahbar mentorship program provides 2,400 students with the chance to have a caring older person guide and support them through their studies, while career counseling is provided to older students. With many TCF students being the first in their families to receive an education, the necessity of this mentorship cannot be overstated.