Tag Archives: Karachi

Karwan-e-Aliph: A walk through Neelum Colony

Imagine walking across the narrow and busy streets in Karachi’s Neelum Colony. You curiously move past the shops selling delicious samosays and tempting kachoris, until you turn into a small alley. On your left are multiple kachay houses built next to each other.

You knock on one of the gates. A six year old greets you and takes you inside. You are standing in a small lounge with no rooms around. You see stairs on one corner from where you go up. When you are told to go up another floor, you are scared. These ‘stairs’ seem to be made by putting a wooden ladder across a wall and fixing it with some support.

You go upstairs. What you see next leaves you completely mesmerized.


“Welcome to Karwan-e-Aliph”, I am greeted by the young and enthusiastic Kulsoom. Dupatta set properly on her head, Kulsoom looks like a disciplined and focused principal of a high performing school. “Let me give you a tour”, she says.

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I see students studying in groups. Some students are working independently, others are being taught by their leaders, while the rest are practicing their typing skills on the laptops. The brown cupboard on the corner houses all the resources including the curriculum and books divided different reading levels. Students know their current level and their aspired goal-they track their own progress towards their goal.

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Karwan-e-Aliph houses about 20-25 students who come 5 days a week for two hours before school. They study on their own and take help of their leaders, who are trained to not only teach these students but to help them become independent learners. Students are grouped according to the levels they are at and follow a schedule that is pasted on their wall. The students pay a token contribution monthly for their learning which is used to pay the salaries of student leaders and housing expenses of the venue.

Curious to learn more about how this Karwan was conceptualized, I start chatting with Kulsoom. I am once again mesmerized-this time, by her clarity of thought and passion exuding from her voice. She explains that Alif is the first alphabet of our Urdu language which signifies that everything has a beginning. To go from first to second floor, you have to climb through each stair to reach to the end of the floor. The purpose of this Karwan is that the members of our community live in a pleasant and empathetic environment where we collectively struggle for a better future. Our students should be resilient and patient. She then talks about how she always dreamed to have a space where she could teach students of her community and the struggle she and her team faced while executing this program. Her interviewed can be viewed here.

What I haven’t told you yet is that Kulsoom herself is a student- a ninth grade student of Government Girls Secondary School from our Fellow Hina’s class. Karwan-e-Aliph is actually the community development project of two of our Fellows from the 2013 cohort: Hina Saleem Mesiya and Zara Hasnain-a project that is owned and run by the community. Prior to completing their Fellowship in May 2015, Hina was teaching Math at a government school in Neelum Colony while Zara was teaching English at a TCF school in Korangi Dhaai.


Let’s take a quick look 9 months back. Zara and Hina were sitting in the Aman conference room with their chart papers on the floor creating a problem tree. As part of their project management training, all 2013 Fellows had to use the given diagnostic tools to isolate the single most important factor that was stopping/would stop their students from reaching their full potential and being the change agents in their community. After much thought-partnering, researching and creating multiple iterations, both of them came to the same conclusion: Their students need to create and execute solutions for their most pressing challenges; their immediate challenge being a lack of study time and space outside of their schools.

They then started thinking of various ways to address this need. Eventually, they decided to create learning spaces in their respective communities, which would be sustained by a revenue generation model and owned by the community. The name Karwan-e-Aliph was jointly decided by them and their students. These learning spaces would be hosted at two locations: The roof of Kulsoom’s house in Neelum Colony and a private school in Korangi Dhaai.

Through this program, they are currently developing community based leadership in at least 50 individuals. Multiple the impact of these 50 to the number of initiatives they will take within their own capacities in the next five years and you will get a sense of the indirect impact this one program has created.

Let me also add here that these are pilot programs. Zara and Hina plan to register Karwan-e-Aliph in the next few months and take these programs to other communities. To sum it up in Hina’s words, “The CDP (community development project) has been the best part of this Fellowship. I did not realize it at the beginning of the project, but I can very confidently say it now. Now that I have undertaken an entrepreneurial venture on my own, there is no stopping me. I know that I will only work with an organization with which my vision is aligned.”

image008Figure 1: Hina with her students and student leaders

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Figure 2: Zara with her student leaders

Classroom impact: every student matters

Bilal 2Bilal Afzal Khan is a 2012 Fellow at Teach For Pakistan and is currently teaching Maths to classes 8, 9 and 10 in Roshni School, Lahore. He graduated from the Lahore University of Management Sciences with a Major in Economics and Political Science.

Bilal was disappointed with his student Shaheen’s performance in his Math class. He called her mother in for a meeting to express his concerns and upon further discussion he made a startling discovery. Shaheen had fallen from the roof of her home almost three years ago, and had since faced many problems and suffered from a psychological disorder. She now failed to retain concepts in her mind. Bilal decided that he would not give up on her and pushed himself further to help her develop and succeed at Math.

Bilal invested more time in this particular student and introduced her to mental exercises while practicing simpler concepts.  She soon became more focused on her studies. Though she took longer than her peers to learn new concepts, she worked hard, and Bilal started to see improvements in her scores. When her end of year board exam results came out, Bilal was delighted to learn that she not only passed her Math exam but had performed well in all other subjects.

Bilal says, “If I had not availed the opportunity to join Teach For Pakistan, it would have never been possible for me to transform her life in this short period of time.”

Classroom impact: stepping beyond the academics

Fazil Maniya is a Teach For Pakistan Fellow in the 2012 Cohort. He teaches maths to classes 4 and 5 in Karachi. Fazil graduated with a Computer Science degree from the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.

In this video Fazil talks about the powerful impact a teacher has on his/her students as a role model. By embodying and exemplifying them, a teacher can shape the values and mindsets of students in the classroom.

Community impact: investing parents to drive student excellence

Bareerah Hoorani is a Teach For Pakistan Fellow in the 2012 Cohort. She teaches Science and English to class 7 and 8 in Karachi. Bareerah graduated from the Institute of Business Administration.

In this video she talks about how she invested the parents of a struggling student in her achievement at school and how this resulted in academic gains for the student.

Classroom Impact: Making history in Roshni School

KHQ_7862Ahmed Rubbie Jamshed  is a Fellow in the 2012 cohort. He teaches Science and English to Grades 8 and 9 at Roshni School in Lahore. Ahmed has done BSc from the Lahore School of Economics.

“Out of a total of 40 students that took the science exam, over half the class scored A grades, 10 students scored B grades and only a handful scored lesser than that”

Ahmed is a grade 7 science teacher at Roshni School in Lahore. He feels fortunate to have taught in what he refers to as bipolar surroundings. He has taught in schools which are both predominantly conservative, but cater to opposite genders. MAO School in Karachi was an all boys’ school where he taught in the summer and the students were mostly Pashtuns. Roshni School in Lahore- where he has been teaching for over a year- is an all girls’ school where 90% of the students wear hijabs. The former school had problems of aggression and physical violence whereas the latter school has students who are under confident and taciturn.

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Ahmed says, “When I joined Roshni School, there was an ongoing problem with science classes because the school hadn’t had a proper science teacher in over 3 years. The students barely had any concepts and they were to appear for board exams of grade 8 in 5 months’ time. So the clock was ticking and I was given the responsibility of bringing their concepts to their respective grade levels and ultimately preparing 40 students for the board exams. It was a really hard task to balance the student learning outcomes from the national curriculum and the syllabus that the school was following but eventually I found the right mix. I held after school remediation, extra classes and even test sessions on Sundays. The foremost thing was the willingness of students to learn and their trust in me that I could guide them right”.

After a lot of effort on both parts, the students took the exams and were fairly happy with their performance. But when the results came out, nobody had expected what actually happened. Out of a total of 40 students that took the science exam, over half the class scored A grades, 10 students scored B grades and only a handful scored lesser than that.

This was by far the best result amongst all other subjects, and the best science result ever in Roshni School; in fact it was the best in all the schools in a 10 km radius.