Contradictions In Karachi – An Outside View

Jul 22, 2013 by     Comments Off on Contradictions In Karachi – An Outside View    Posted under: Opinions

José Manuel Murillo, a Mexican intern in Karachi, writes about the steps taken in Pakistan to fight illiteracy and bridge the gap between the rich and poor. A special thanks to Ms. Neha Irfan, for providing this content to our team.

Whenever I’m asked about the negative aspects of the economic situation in my country, the first thing that comes to my mind is the economic disparity among social classes. Not surprisingly, every other person from any part of the world I have met has given me the same answer; and no wonder why. The Gini Index provides a pretty good explanation to this phenomenon, it measures the extent to which distribution of income or consumption expenditure among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. After a lot of math which I don’t understand, a country with a Gini coefficient of 0 has perfect equality among income, and one with a coefficient of 1 has perfect inequality. If all the world was put together as a country, its Gini coefficient would be .630, coming in 156th, out 160 countries in the index (Source: The World Bank). This economic disparity is a worldwide problem, so how has Pakistan dealt with it?

The streets of Karachi offer an amazing picture every time you walk or drive through them. Yet, the problem of economic disparity is definitely perceptible, as it is in almost every city in the world. Although Pakistan has been recognized as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, there are still a lot of underprivileged areas where families struggle every day, and where children aren’t given the opportunity to pursue a proper education. Fortunately, in Pakistan, a large number of NGOs have decided to provide a helping hand in many different ways. Among these NGOs, I had the chance of discovering The Citizens Foundation (TCF), which was created in 1995 with the goal of providing free education to underprivileged children. As of 2013, TCF has established 910 schools worldwide, with an enrollment of 126,000 students, from both elementary and secondary school, as well as Teacher Training Centers.

The importance of the effort made by TCF to eliminate social class barriers regarding education for children can only be truly appreciated by assisting to one of their schools and meeting their students. I had the opportunity to go to the Shahbaz Goth School, located in a slum area in Northwest Karachi. It is a fact that people with the least are the ones who appreciate things the most, and these children are no exception. The smiles on their faces when we arrived, and the excitement with which they greeted us, helps us understand the importance of what TCF provides them. Students in the Shahbaz Goth School wouldn’t have any chance of an education and hence, a brighter future, if it weren’t for this school; and considering how talented they are, it would be a shame. Children in TCF schools also participate in summer camps, where they are taught English, and are involved in workshops to develop their artistic abilities and sports. I was impressed to discover the eagerness of the students to learn, their disposition to participate in every activity, and especially the talent they display at all of them. Therefore, I wasn’t shocked when I found out that a former student of a TCF school is currently studying at Harvard University with a full scholarship.

The story doesn’t stop there. After spending half a day in one of the poorest areas of Karachi, I got the chance to experience the opposite end of this city, the upper class neighborhood, where I was invited for an amazing dinner with a Pakistani family. The economic disparity is clearly present in Karachi, but there is definitely a great will to change this. One of the five pillars of Islam is about charitable giving to the least benefited, and here in Pakistan they surely keep up to it. The TCF school I attended was ran by young people from higher social classes, who actually volunteer for these kind of social projects. Not only young people from university who have to take part in social internships, but also boys and girls, as young as 15 years old, volunteer to help underprivileged kids to have the chance of a much better life. The same willingness to help and to make a change found in people who are more privileged, is equivalent to the willingness found in underprivileged children, who have so much to offer and are just waiting for a chance to prove it. These are the two opposite sides of Pakistan, brought together by helping hands.

Contradictions in Karachi - AIESEC in IBA

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