At only 12 and 15, siblings Shireen and Hasan started a street school for street children in their hometown in Pakistan. While other kids their age would be engrossed in their hobbies and studies, Shireen and Hasan Zafar were concerned about the welfare of the street kids and wanted to do something about it.
Which they did. With their parents’ blessings, they started a street school to teach street children maths, English and Urdu. Now, a year later, they won a Global Youth Award in Taiwan, an award for recognizing teens under 18 to take action and change the world.
The UN estimates that Pakistan has 1.2 million to1.5 million street children, and only 52% of children complete their primary education.These children are forced to earn a living by their parents, either by selling items on the streets or by begging. Hence, they are unable to go to school.There are also orphaned children who are street kids and have no means to study. The impact of these street children is that they would end up in petty crimes and graduate to organized crimes as adults.
We contacted the siblings, Hasan Zafar and Shireen Zafar, via email to ask them to tell us more about their awesome work.
Question 1: Whose idea was it, and why you feel you must do this?
This idea was the result of a street girl who came up to Shireen and instead of asking for money, she rather said “baji kya aap mujay parhain gi” wanting to be taught how to read. This really inspired Shireen and then Shireen further discussed the idea of teaching that girl on street with her elder brother Hasan. We started a street school on an empty plot where in the beginning they use to teach around 2 kids and then this went further and now we teach around 200 students.
Question 2: Why are these kids on the streets?
Most of our students are street children who are mostly roaming on streets selling tissue papers and begging for money. Many parents stopped their kids from going to study as they wanted them to make money.
Question 3: Can education make a difference in their lives?
Most of our students are street children who are mostly roaming on streets selling tissue papers and begging for money. We also have some of the adults studying in our school most of them are parents of our students.In order to wipe out terrorism from Pakistan we need to work on these children as they are the one who later get involved in terrorist activities.
Street school is a school for children on the street which not just teach but also support the street children financially. We started the street school in january 2016. The street school teaches its student all the core subjects as well as other extra curricular activities.
Question 4: What challenges that you face at the beginning?
Starting school on street was itself a challenge because when you decide to go on streets and try to convince parents of these kids who are usually bread earners of the family, they hesitate because you are actually taking away their earner but to even this loss. We are decided to provide them with money and food on everyday basis. This really encouraged the parents to send their kids to the street school.
Question 5: How do you build their interest to keep studying?
Soon after realizing the need of money for these children, we decided to support the students financially by setting 50 cents daily incentive as well as snacks, clothes and medical aid. We also provide van services to the students who live on different streets. All this was done by the help of our family and friends.
Question 6: Running the a school takes a lot of hard work, did you receive any support?
The street school now has a team of well qualified teachers who are paid monthly to give these kids the best education. We also have security guards because we are sitting on the streets and we cannot sit without security as we have a lot of threats and all of our staff is paid
When we first started teaching these kids it felt a little difficult as sitting on the street was itself a challenge for us. But later by seeing their interest in education we got highly motivated and then through the support of our local community as well as the international community is what keep us motivated and has allowed us to continue with this cause of educating the street kids. We believe that, everyone deserve to be all that they can be. Education is the launch pad for this to happen.
Question 7: Can you tell us a little bit about your own background, and about your parents?
Hasan is in O’2 and Shireen is in grade 8. We study in a Cambridge school. Our dad is a businessman while our mom works as an interior designer. Our parents were quite happy with our thinking they were also a bit shocked as they thought that we were joking only but later when they came to know that we were too serious about the street school then they felt very much proud and supported us financially and in every way. Other than our parents, we were also encouraged by the local public and by our teachers and friends.
We have been blessed with a good parents who wants the best for us, we go to a good school, because of these blessings we feel we should use whatever skills we have acquired to help those who are less fortunate.
Question 8: How come you are different from other people your age, there are thousands of other children with ?
From childhood we were thinking how we can change Pakistan in a positive way. What can the youth do for making Pakistan a safe homeland. We have been brought up to are such way that we always want to contribute in society in a positive change, want to change so many things; but we could find any platform for that, we always wish that someday we could do anything for the people to want our help, never turn anyone away or left anyone behind.
Question 9: Where do you want to be 5 years from now?
Our future plan is to built a school for these children which will provide them high quality education and will also support them and their families financially but to fulfill this dream public support is required. Financial support would help us to achieve our target.
Question 10: What do you advise to other youths, who wants to do something similar?
As a nation it’s our responsibility to contribute for the betterment of our society. Whether you are 10, 12, 15, 17, or any other age, you probably don’t think adults are going to listen to you. Maybe you have a cause you are passionate about, but you don’t think anyone will listen to what a kid or teen will have to say. You’re wrong! You may be young, you may not have all the answers, but you are truly never too young to make a difference in this world.
We thank Hasan Zafar and Shireen Zafar for taking their time from their busy schedule to reply to our interview questions. To support their street school, you can contact them on their official Facebook fan page.
Watch this video about their street school below:
Shahfizal Musa is the editor of Halalop. He graduated with a Law degree from Thames Valley University London. He is an award-winning journalist covering topics such as human trafficking, Muslim research discoveries, and exceptional Muslims.