Youth Leading the Way…
By Raja Rafiullah, Project Coordinator, IKF
After traversing the intricate labyrinth like road on the rugged terrain in this suburb of Islamabad, we, accompanied by Mrs. Reham Khan, reached the enclosure that led to the entrance of the HeadStart School. In any other part of the world, a school entrance would look like one but this resembled an army fortress. There lay in front of us two separate layers of thick concrete walls cosmetically laden with curled up barbed wire. On either side of the horizon, we could see men in uniform posited on rooftops with Kalashnikovs firmly held in their hands. Now when one usually thinks of a school, playful rackets of innocent children spring to mind; however here outside this school, was a tense silence, nothing more or less.
Yes, this is how most schools look like in Pakistan in the post- APS Peshawar era. Normally under such circumstances, outsiders with no direct association would be allowed to enter the sensitive confines of a school. We however had the luxury of having Mrs. Khan with us, who was invited by the students of this school under the banner of Imran Khan Foundation. The students had in a short span of time collected a sizable donation worth nearly 2.5 million rupees for the children schools that our foundation has setup in the IDPs Tent Villages in collaboration with Mrs. Khan.
After entering the enclosure, we parked our vehicles in front of the administrative offices of the school, where the school management were ready to welcome Mrs. Reham Khan. Here we were greeted by the dignitaries of the school and were ushered towards the principal’s office. After a brief ice-breaking session; Mrs. Khan was invited to acknowledge the high-achieving students of the school. During her formal address to the audience of the school, Mrs. Khan emphasized how it is the moral obligation of us as human beings to offer a helping hand to those who are less privileged then us. This, she explained is not only important because it serves a ‘charitable’ purpose, but also in the greater scheme of things the ones we help in one way or the other add to our either ‘material’ or ‘psychological well-being. Later as Mrs. Khan was delivering her ‘thank you’ speech to the young student audience; one could clearly see the sense of fulfillment on these young faces. Forced to skip school in the aftermath of the fear that enveloped the entire country following the terrorist attack on APS School in Peshawar, these students were not only back to their own school, but were also ensuring that the uprooted IDP children will also go to school. The unrelenting resilience of these students and their courage in the face of severe barbarity epitomized the ‘hope’ we all carry for a safer, more peaceful and prosperous Pakistan.
Once the official proceedings had ended; the students invited Mrs. Reham Khan outside onto the green grass-laden lawn for tea. Pictures were taken in crisp bright sunlight on this mild January afternoon. The stock of school supplies for the children in Bannu (school uniforms, jackets, sweaters and ‘school packages’) were loaded and dispatched to Bannu under the direct supervision of Mrs. Khan, the IKF’s Project Director Isfundiar Kasuri and the school management.
Soon enough the afternoon proceedings came to an end, we dived back into our vehicles and went back on to that intricate labyrinth like road. And as we drove back to our base in Islamabad; we were engulfed in a conundrum of conflicting emotions; we were happy, but still unsatisfied. Unsatisfied not by the children who showed great resilience in helping the IDPs but by our own selves. No matter how hard we try, it feels as if we are applying band aids to gaping wounds. The realization that we as individuals and also we as a country need to do significantly more struck us. However, the fact that we have support of Imran Khan (the well-known Philanthropist) and his wife, fills us with hope and determination for the future of the IKF.