As the end of december drew near I started to wait for word of the Â school that would be assigned to me and my group of rahbars. The email I was waiting for arrived in the first week of January and we set off to a small little village right behind the airport here in Karachi for our first rahbar session. Our organizer was Junaid, a cheerful chap who called each one of us & even volunteered to wake us up on the said morning if we needed such a call. However as all of us found out when we met, the anticipation was enough of an alarm to get out of bed!
Ghot Dhani bux is a little hamlet behind a fence where dreams fly away without offering a space to many who can but watch and wonder. I felt some of what the dwellers of this vicinity must feel when we drove past the electric wire fence separating the boundaries of this village from the asphalt of the runway where shining planes landed and took off, within sight of the villagers to hear the squeak of their tires or the roar of their engines but away..far far away from ever hoping to sit in them. I have lived for 39 years in Karachi but never knew such a village even existed behind our airport let alone ever having the chance to visit it.
The TCF school we arrived Â in at the center of this village was tidy and well maintained, as all TCF schools amazingly are. The point of the founders “why should there only be poor schools in poor areas” shining from every clean brick, class and pathway of these centers of learning.
We met in a classroom and quickly sat down in a circle around our organizer and this is how induction began. He told us of what it is like to be a mentor and why we must remain steadfast. He then outlined for us the form and manner in which we are to approach our tasks and after an ice breaker in the form of each mentor telling two truths and one lie he broke us down from individuals into a group bound together by purpose. We were then taken on a tour of the school during which I met quite a few prefects standing around watching us with interest. The kids were not only motivated and bright but seemed thrilled at the idea of us being here, something many of us may dismiss as trivial but means so much to the children. Â Tea back in the classroom was quickly followed by us being divided into groups of two co mentors each which Junaid explained would be paired with a group of six kids each next week.
My co mentor had not made it to the induction session so I along with Junaid helped demonstrate some of the situations which could be faced by us mentors while interacting with the kids and how to deal with them. I thought this exercise was very helpful as telling someone something to do is very different from showing them, and I could see the understanding seeping into faces around me as Junaid explained how not to separate a student because of their class or creed or how not to indulge in favouritism or how not to talk non stop and not listen or how not to remain closed to a student who wished to confide something in his mentor in private. When this was over and everyone had spoken to their co mentors for a bit we stepped outside to see the rest of the facilities and I quickly found another group of kids surround me wanting to shake my hand as we drifted off into our cars to head back to our pick up point.
On the drive home there came a point where in my view over a huge pile of garbage I could see the city of Karachi and its tall buildings from the village. It occurred to me at this point just how cruel we city dwellers are, caught in our rat race, never bothering to look past our naval gazing at those who may be hidden from our eyes, but have an equal right to learn and to thrive in opportunity provided by knowledge.
I am glad TCF is there to chip away at this wall between cities, between standards of living and between classes, to not just provide the kids of such villages opportunity but also to provide us with a way to find some light within our own selfs.