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The Open Doors Literacy Project was initiated to enlighten Pakistani village women and teenage girls with the light of Education. See http://www.global1.youth-leader.org/2012/06/hassan-saeed-100-day-literacy-programs-to-empower-pakistani-village-youth/ Usually, literacy rate in villages is low and the people there remain ignorant. Part of the reason is the low quality of their schools, no school in some areas, or the strictness of their parents that revolve around many issues for girls. The Open Doors Literacy Project exists to provide a platform to those people by teaching them basic Urdu and numbers. The program is a 100-day course with 2 hours of classes a day, 6 days a week. The program gives students a base to do basic reading, basic writing and numbers. With that, the students are also given a daily travel allowance, which enables them to come for classes from far distant villages in remote areas of Peshawar. The first class of this project was September 2010. We hope to continue it and stretch this network of education by providing free, quality education to these kids and help them stay alive in this modern age.

Hassan reports

Via Skype, with Hassan translating, I talked with five of students, teen girls and a mother of 9, who is 35. She was shocked that I only had one child. I tried to explain rhythm method of birth control, but Hassan and the students didn’t have basic knowledge of reproduction. Photos of the house and courtyard are available on the OPDL website.[i] I asked the girls if their generation is different from their parents’ generation. They said yes because their parents are illiterate while now that they can read they get more respect and “know better” about some issues. They said they’re not going to make the same mistake with their children. Two of the girls said they would like to be nurses. They enjoy reading the newspaper but don’t have access to books except for reading the Koran in Urdu. Shehla said, “All they think about is getting us married. Now we think of learning and helping the country grow.” However, Shumaila, 14, announced that she was recently engaged to a man she hasn’t met, she’s only seen his photo. His parents want the marriage to be soon, but her parents would like to delay the marriage for about four years. The girls said their parents were supportive of learning, waking them up early to be ready for class. They trust Hassan to teach their girls, referring to him as older brother. They appreciate it when Hassan brings food for them.

I asked if there were any government schools available for them to continue their education, but no, only a distant school that goes to grade three, where—like other government schools on all levels—the teachers don’t come to class.

During a Skype session with teacher Hassan translating, I asked the Group 3 Open Doors Literacy Project girls if their generation is different from their parents’ generation. (http://opendoorsliteracyproject.weebly.com.) They said yes because their parents are illiterate while now that they can read they get more respect and “know better” about some issues. They enjoy reading the newspaper but don’t have access to books except for reading the Koran in Urdu. Shela said, “All they think about is getting us married. Now we think of learning and helping the country grow.” However, Shimala, 14, announced that she was recently engaged to a man she hasn’t met, she’s only seen his photo. His parents want the marriage to be soon, but her parents would like to delay the marriage for about four years.

The girls said their parents were supportive of learning, waking them up early to be ready for class. They appreciate it when Hassan brings food for them. Hassan gave me a tour of their place on camera and in the outdoor cooking area with a gas burner we only saw a bowl of vegetables. The house is composed of two rooms with cots and no decoration. Their toilet is a hole in the ground in the yard protected by a wall. I asked if there were any government schools available for them to continue their education, but no, only a distant school that goes to grade three, where—like other government schools on all levels—the teachers don’t come to class.

When asked about generational differences, Group 4 they said their parents had more experiences and teach good values like help others and don’t lie, so they should be obeyed. Their parents are supportive of their participation in ODLP. They were less critical than Group 3, perhaps because they’re younger—ranging from 9 to 13. They have many siblings, ranging from 2 to 8 brothers and sisters. I asked one girl with 2 sisters and no brothers if her parents wanted a boy. She said her mother doesn’t want a boy, but feels guilty when she sees families with sons. One of the girls has 1 5 sisters and 1 brother; her father is handicapped, so her 16-year-old brother supports the family with a store. He not to drop out after third grade in a government school for boys. There’s a private co-ed school near them, but their families can’t afford the tuition. Like Group 3, they’re not eager to get married. They think around 20 is a good age for a girl to marry.

They eat mainly legumes and meat is rare. Only one of the girls has a vegetable garden, as they mainly grow fruit trees. I want to explore creating a group garden as a school project. I asked what they do for fun: play cricket and soccer, draw, help their mothers with housework, and visit cousins.

When asked about why they wanted to learn to read and write, their responses were altruistic. They want to help their poor village, orphans, parents and country, and like Group 3, their particular concern is health care. A hospital is far from the village, so they would like to establish a clinic there and several of the girls would like to be doctors. I suggested to a friend who works for USAID in Pakistan that she look into establishing health care training for poor village girls.             They also like making new friends in their class. Lubna, 10, would like to be a cultural ambassador to counter the influence of the terrorists.            Medima, 10, said it gives her a reason to wake up, to be part of a team, establishing a foundation to increase their knowledge.

I asked both groups if they had questions for me. Group 3 asked about my daily life, my family, and my house—how many rooms. The one question from Group 4 was why do Americans target Pashtun people to kill in Pakistan? I said the drones were after the Taliban, who happen to be Pashtun tribe. I felt badly about the over 3,000 people who’ve been killed by drone attacks. I didn’t expect that President Obama would escalate the attacks. A girl, age 10, said it was the same there, people vote for a politician and they do something you don’t want.

I asked what they think of their teacher. Both groups like that he calls them every night to remind them to come to class and study, brings them food, is very kind, and a strict teacher. They refer to him as older brother. It’s very moving to be able to talk with villagers across the planet and see we’re making a difference in their lives.

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