Bostaan'ilm School

Rawalpindi, Pakistan

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Pronounced bos.ta.nay.ill.m | bostaan/باغ= garden, ilm/علم= knowledge | "The Garden of Knowledge"

Mission: Quality education to underprivileged children through community partnerships. With additional funding, our hope is to serve a larger number of children, expand Bostaan’ilm to more locations, and offer classes up through high school.

Overview: Bostaan’ilm is a co-ed, non-profit afternoon school for underprivileged, working children. Founded in 2003, Bostaan’ilm started with 15 students when a private school offered their building, rent and utilities free, after their regular school hours. Currently a five-year school that takes in children aged 4-14 years, Bostaan’ilm has 140+ students.

Most students are child workers - daughters who help out their mothers who work as maids or sons who help with the family’s business, particularly boys who collect recyclables through trash to help their families earn money. We conduct rigorous background checks to ensure only the most deserving families get seats.

The children are provided uniforms, books and stationary and sit in real classrooms with all the facilities of a private school. All overhead costs are absorbed by SLS, so 100% of donations to Bostaan’ilm are used to provide education for these children. The cost to educate one child at Bostaan'ilm for an entire year is only Rs.3,000. That's US $32 and £20.

Since 2006, a total of 80 students have graduated from Bostaan'ilm School, many graduating against all odds. These graduates can read and write basic Urdu and English, and calculate basic Maths. They have participated in important Character Building exercises and projects, found their voices in Singing Class, and their talents in their art work.

Our seventh batch of students graduated in February 2012, a total of 18 graduates, 11 girls and 7 boys. The upcoming batch of graduates are studying science too!

Description: Every student at Bostaan’ilm comes with a compelling life story. For many of these graduates, they are the first in generations to learn to write their names, read, and have received any formal education. We are creating opportunities for children where the lottery of birth has far too often determined their future. There are some heartbreaking endings where circumstances don’t allow the brightest students to continue their education but there are also some beautiful, inspiring stories. Afghani-refugee families who used to send only their sons eventually started trusting the school enough to start sending their daughters.

There are two types of schools in the cities. The first are government schools that require "sifarish", a written bribe by a higher up in the army or other influential post requesting your child to be admitted. If parents are lucky enough to get a "safarish", their child goes to a government school where rote-learning techniques are mastered down to a tee. There are no explanations or understanding of the content being studied, just how to reproduce it, clear the exams and get promoted to the next class.

Private schools, with mostly excellent academic standards, are the other option – except they’re only an option for a very small, select population of well-to-do families. The monthly wage for an average city-worker in Pakistan is less than Rs.7000. As one mother put it, “If it came to a choice of living on the roads and starving so that I put my children in a decent school, even then only two out of the five could go to a private school in my income.”

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