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Being Me @ UNMC: Leading By Example In Pakistan (Charity Work)
Rehan is currently serving as the Vice President of Justuju Welfare Organization – a student initiated and led NGO– that strives to provide quality education to the under developed strata of Pakistan. The organization is currently running two major projects, the ‘Adopt a School’ project in affiliation with the Government of Sindh, Pakistan and ‘The Justuju School’ project, the latter being the organization’s own private school subsidized for the underprivileged. Together, both projects are currently providing quality education to over 1300 students and laying foundations for future leaders of Pakistan. In this regard, the team of Justuju leads by example themselves.
Gripped by the apprehension of how my students would participate in the discussion on “Motivation in Life,” I entered the classroom. The faint whispers of gossiping students transformed into a delighted chatter.
Suddenly, all the students stood up to wish me what seemed like a forceful “salaam”, (hello) in Arabic, as customary in Pakistani government schools. My reply in the same slow, monotonous tone, followed by an inquiry of how they felt when someone spoke to them in such a manner, struck them as hilarious. Their bubbling laughter was followed by a hearty good morning with which we began our discussion.
“Despite what you may have to face in life, you have to motivate yourself to carry on” I said, narrating my experience of migrating from Dubai to Karachi, and the consequent financial and social pressures my family and I had to endure.
“But Sir Rehan, becoming a doctor is too difficult” chimed many a concerned student.
“If you want to become a doctor, strive hard for it and do not become disheartened if the path is difficult,” I encouraged them.
After a series of such discussions, I was called by one of the teachers who informed me that I was not following the weekly teaching planner that had been approved of by the staff of the school. I did not believe in “teaching” the course content, but instead advocated learning through discussions. Moreover, understanding the subject with interest and passion has been more important to me, than strictly abiding by the course content. Hence, I decided to amend the so called teaching planner according to my students’ interests; discussion about motivation was just the beginning.
Students responded positively to this decision and strived to grasp the differences between ionic and covalent bonding and the relation between the different parts of the body and the functions they carry out. Since I could see the enthusiasm in them, I was ready to make as many changes as needed, in order to keep this passion intact. Because I felt that I was not just “teaching;” I was “educating”.
As I set out to “educate” each class, I focused on developing skills that they would require in life: compassion, curiosity, self-reflection.
Implementing what one of my mentors during the program always said, “Get the heart, the mind will follow!” I managed to create a comfortable, friendly environment in the class by behaving comically and dancing around the classroom. Joining them during their recess, I would discuss an array of topics ranging from social issues like poverty and terrorism, to having extra classes, to arguing upon why my photo was not found in the Centreline (yearbook) as frequently as those of other students, despite being the Vice President of the Student Council at my school.
“My hobby is playing cricket with the boys in the neighborhood,” mentioned one of my students.
“My hobbies range from making friends with new students, and counseling my friends, to watching documentaries on The National Geographic Channel about technology, science and the arts,” I said.
We would sing “Ho Jamalo,” (a local folk song) and do the Pushto dance, hence demonstrating an acceptance of each other’s diversity in class and outside. Meanwhile my learning of “Pushto” and dancing skills transformed tremendously. They shared their concerns on the state of our country with me and approached me to find solutions to their problems. I began to realize with humble pride that my students loved me.
They expressed their love by buying me bun kebabs, (the local equivalent to a burger) and Lays (a packet of crisps) and greeting me at assembly times in vibrant tones. I developed a bond with my students that resembled the strong ionic bonds I taught them about. As my students grew more comfortable with me and our interactions increased, I started realizing that despite coming from less affluent backgrounds, their aspirations, emotions and thoughts were no different from ours.
More importantly, their confidence level and learning from each other had succeeded in adding a new zest to their lives. Before leaving, we gave each other critical feedback and I left with a feeling of accomplishment; confident of the fact that I had transformed the students of the school. My interaction with my students did not just end after a month of the “internship,” and many of the graduated students are still in touch with me. I realized that it is not difficult for anyone to bring about a change: the driving force behind self-development and maturation. Before this program, I was a staunch believer of the idea that happiness is brought about by worldly luxuries. I am now a strong advocate of the belief that small things in life matter the most.
Six months later, I find myself walking into the classroom, thinking about how my new students would participate and relate to a discussion on “Motivation in Life.”
At that very instance, the students all stand up to wish me what seems like a forceful “salaam”. With a smile on my face and memories of the students I had previously taught, I replied to them in the same slow and monotonous tone and am once again received by amused laughter.
For more information about Justuju and how you may help/contribute, please visit their official facebook page at – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Justuju-Welfare-Organization – or email Rehan directly at firstname.lastname@example.org