The marginalized village of Basti Hakra is lined with cotton and sugarcane fields, where women can be seen cotton picking and harvesting. The dusty roads are evident of the fact that the village has scarce access to economic opportunities, basic infrastructure facilities, and formal education. With more than a 1000 households, most of the people are farmers or labourers working in other larger cities. However, 36 year old Ms. Kubra Bukhari is on a different mission – providing ECD opportunities to children (3 to 5 years) under Parwaan Preschool – A School Readiness Programme in her community.
Being a private school teacher for 12 years, Ms. Kubra struggled with the meagre pay, which started at Rs. 8000 per month and reached Rs. 25,000 per month over the course of 12 years. Initially, she had started teaching to make ends meet – her husband had been in a road accident and had damaged his leg therefore Kubra had to leave the house and earn much to her family’s displeasure. Belonging to a Syed family, religious constraints did not allow her to leave her house and work. But when she started teaching, Kubra realized that it was more than just a job for her. Simultaneously, she also started pursuing FA from Allama Iqbal Open University as she always longed to gain further education. However the death of eldest child on delivery brought an abrupt end to her mission. Kubra delved into depression as she and her husband struggled with the loss of their first son. She lost interest in teaching or gaining further education. Around the same time, another accident struck her family – her husband got paralyzed. Once again, Ms. Kubra found herself to be the breadwinner in order to support her family. Only this time, her teaching job was not enough. Her cousin suggested she opens her own school but she shrugged the idea off as she thought herself to be incapable of such a venture.
Eventually, Kubra started her own school in the vicinity of her home with her first students being her own son, and her niece and nephew. With time, the number increased and now after 4 years, Ms. Kubra has a total of 250 children in her school. As the number of students increased, Ms. Kubra moved into a new bigger house which she was able to purchase through loans, committees and her husband’s new job in Karachi. Ms. Kubra was finally at peace with her school’s work when she heard about Parwaan Preschool – A School Readiness Programme. After being briefed about the programme and the significance of early years education and development, Kubra strongly felt that ECD is not just the right of urban richer children but also rural marginalized children.
In this spirit, she started the entrepreneurial training in ECD under Parwaan Preschool – A School Readiness Programme. Initially, Kubra was nervous about the training as she did not know what to expect. But soon she recognized its significance as she found the methodology taught in the training to be relevant to older classes as well. Kubra travelled more than an hour every day to attend the training and opened her ECD center soon after its completion. She had to face several challenges in establishing the center including opposition from her husband who believed the center to be a bad decision for her already established school. After days of convincing, he finally gave in to his strong headed wife’s decision. Kubra divided her time between her and center. She developed the entire learning environment from scratch through the low cost and no cost methodologies taught at the training.
Already known in her village as the trusted ‘sister Kubra’, she did not have to make extra efforts for enrolment. Her enrolment increased to 40 children in less than year in lieu of the innovative learning environment provided in her ECD center which focuses on cognitive, socio-emotional, physical and linguistic development. She earns a steady income of Rs. 9000 to 10,000 per month in a village where the maximum income is about Rs. 300 per month. By establishing her ECD center, Kubra managed to bring a massive social change in her village.
“Girls’ education was frowned upon in my village till the establishment of my ECD center. Seeing me, a woman, struggle for the provision of education to children in my community for so long, my community members have realized the significance of educating and empowering girls.”
Now with an expanding business of a school and an ECD center, Kubra is finally on the road to success but she has no intention to stop any time soon. “I plan to teach what I have learnt to other teachers so that a network of ECD centers is established in my village which will eventually change the socio-economic conditions of my village.”