Message from the Principal

Zeba Husain

My name is Zeba Husain and I am a mother of three with work experience of over 26 years, both in the US and Pakistan. During this time I worked initially, for five years, with elementary school children. Then I went on to work for UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) in the capacity of a social services officer for Pakistan, which dealt with health education and social issues. While in the US, I completed my elementary education degree and obtained an International Diploma from MCI (Montessori Center International London) in Early Childhood Education. On the basis of these qualifications, I went on to teach in the US for three years in the capacity of a Kindergarten Teacher. I came to Pakistan after the demise of my father, to live with my mother. Here, I worked with a USAID funded project, as a literacy coordinator for the ICT areas, and worked with 118 school as a part of CRI (Children’s Resources International, USA) team. After completing my M.A in Political Sciences, I discovered that I had a benign tumor situated in my brain. As I always had a passion for helping the marginalized groups and a lifetime goal to set up an institution dealing with children belonging to low-income groups, I realized that now was the time to act and began my pursuit to take these dreams and make them mine. Thus, I began the venture of Mashal School, which I started two years ago, to provide holistic education to the street children of the Nurpur Shaha Islamabad. It is a self-funded school (i.e. registered trust), comprising of 970 children in classes ranging from Play Group to class 10. The school consists of 448 boys and 522 girls who have never been to school before. These children face hardships at home, as well as at work, when selling items such as flowers, shopping bags and sweets, and washing cars on the streets of Bari Imam. They have little choice, but to survive on their own in the company of gangs on the street. They are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation of all forms. Despite most of the children’s traumatic past experiences, through the assistance of Mashal School, they were able to overcome their inhibitions and eventually develop a sense of trust and dignity which allowed them to finally live their lives as children and possess a sense of belonging. At Mashal, the first rule that we work on as teachers is that physical abuse, in any sense, is non-acceptable, as these children come from a background of constant mistreatment and lack of emotional and directional support. Admissions start from four years on wards and multi-aged children are admitted according to their levels of basic understanding and learning skills. We follow the National Book Foundation curriculum set by the Board of Education in Pakistan. Educating on issues in health and hygiene and particularly protection against abuse is one of the core aims of our modules. At present we have 50 teachers from the same community who have been trained by the Teacher Trainer, keeping in mind the background of these children. The school also has afternoon sewing classes for the community women, mother’s of students and young girls. The space created for the women, not only provides them with the opportunity to build their skills, but provides them with an avenue to share their problems, experiences, as well as joys with each other.