Shireen and Hasan’s street school


Saudi Gazette

Education is for all. Education is the right of every child, and not just the privileged. That is what the teen siblings, Shireen and Hasan Zafar, believe.

While walking down the streets of Karachi, Pakistan, a young girl with ragged clothes came up to the brother and sister, and rather than ask them for money, she said to them, “Will you teach me?”

This girl inspired Shireen and Hasan to not only teach her, but to teach other children on the street as well. On an empty, sandy plot of land, Shireen and Hasan brought chairs, tables, boards, books, and pencils, and they started teaching around five children. These children had been begging on the streets; some used to sell flowers, tissue papers, and other random items at traffic signals. Every day, Shireen and Hasan take all the school supplies and furniture to the street school and when the lessons are over, they carry it all back to the garage of their home.

In the beginning, family and friends supported them, but as the number of students grew, more and more people started pitching in and donating.

Today, 250 children come to learn five days a week, from 4:30 to 6:00 in the afternoon, and a few adults attend too. Students learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, and then they advance to other subjects taught in the regular schools. In addition to Shireen and Hasan, there are now nine teachers to tend to the students.

Initially, the parents of some of the children were resistant to the idea of the school. Shireen and Hasan recall that many parents even stopped their kids from going to study because they wanted the kids to make money on the busy streets for the family. In order to convince their parents to allow the kids to continue coming to the school, Shireen and Hasan came up with a daily cash incentive and other financial support. Shireen and Hasan give the students pocket money and provide transportation for the kids to get to the school. This encouraged the parents to send their kids to the school, and some parents started showing up with their kids to learn too.

Now the street school has two branches in Karachi, Pakistan.

Shireen and Hasan have seen the positive impact that the school has had on the lives of these children and their families.

Shireen and Hasan said to the Saudi Gazette, “These children are totally changed compared to the time when we started teaching them. At first, they were not even able to grab pencils, but now they are fully capable of writing essays on their own. These children used to misbehave a lot but after a year of teaching, they behave very well. These children have developed an interest in education.”

The benefits of providing a school for these children are more far reaching than what Shireen and Hasan have mentioned. The school can save their lives. Children roaming the streets are easy prey to criminal gangs who force these children into begging and robbery. Street children can fall into dangerous situations such as prostitution, sexual violation, drug consumption, human trafficking, or they can get caught into the hands of flesh traders.

Shireen and Hasan are not only providing the children with education, but with healthy role models, values, and a safe place to shield them from some of the dangers lurking in the streets.