Harbouring a dream, since he was only 16, this young student from Lahore established an organisation that aims to provide quality education to children from underprivileged schools.
Dream to Education For All (DEFA) provides quality education to local low-cost private schools. DEFA hopes to bridge the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged, and instill in them a feeling of responsibility towards community.
The organisation, which conducts summer camps at low-cost private schools, hopes to improve the learning ability of children from underprivileged schools by providing them with a friendlier learning environment and introducing them to liberal arts.
Our aim is not merely restricted to educating a child. We believe each person affects the community they live in, the organisation’s mission statement reads.
Sharing his journey with The Express Tribune, Defa founder Jasir Shahbaz says he was only 15-years-old when he started teaching a helper’s son. The Defa CEO, currently pursuing a bachelor’s in economics from LUMS, wanted more students to have access to quality education after recognising the phenomenal impact some instruction could have on a child.
Too young at 16 to register an NGO, Shahbaz waited two long years to register Defa. However, age wasn’t the only hurdle, once registered the organisation faced numerous challenges; from an inadequate workforce to shortage of funds as well as the lack of faith people had in the initiative.
Despite the trials and tribulations, Defa persevered. Today, besides holding summer camps and workshops, the organisation runs the Qadam Community School.
While the organisation teaches all subjects, it devotes greater attention to liberal arts. “Arts is a very well received,” Shahbaz says. Children always ask when the arts class is, he says.
Teaching kids subjects like public speaking, history, creative writing, drama and arts, Shahbaz said the organisation wants to give them a better education experience with pleasanter, encouraging teachers and an environment conducive to creative thinking and expression.
According to Shahbaz, creative thinking will enable these kids to take greater control of their lives. “At then of the day, they will have to solve their problems,” he says. Emphasizing the need to involve these children in the problem solving process Shahbaz added, “Only when these kids think creatively will they be able to put forth creative solutions for their problems.”
Citing their internship program, Shahbaz encourages people to get involved. He wants people to visit their local low-cost private schools and get to know children and “how their lives unfold parallel to ours.”
“You have no idea what great impact the experience has on the children.Wherever you are, just reach out to them… it will not only inspire them, but motivate you too. This is what has kept us going for all the years,” he says.
Speaking about the future plans, Shahbaz says they are very closely linked with their new school. Shahbaz and his team hope to develop the community centre further and have debates on issues such as religious harmony, honor killings, sexual harassment and more.
Shahbaz hopes to not only see an increase in the number of students enrolled at the school but also impact lives with the initiative. “Education should be a free good,” he says when asked what he would like to change about the nation’s education sector.