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No change in a society is possible without education. Illiteracy results in poverty, and poverty restricts the opportunity for education creating a vicious cycle. The people of Baltistan were trapped in this cycle and a break was required. Marafie Foundation has therefore focused its attention on education. An in-depth analysis of the state of education showed that in a large area there were no facilities for elementary education, and the children had no chance of any education and were condemned to remain illiterate. At the middle school level, the low quality of education deprived the students of the opportunity to enroll in professional colleges or to get jobs in the armed forces and law enforcement agencies at officer levels. Education at these two levels therefore required urgent attention.

Marafie Foundation embarked on an ambitious plan to deal with these two levels, and today it can look back on its achievements in these spheres with satisfaction.

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Construction of School Buildings

The need for new school buildings was so great that the Foundation decided to involve the community in construction of the buildings, with the contribution of free land/labour so that the costs could be kept to the minimum, and a sense of
ownership could be created.  The Foundation also developed three standard types of school, namely elementary school

(Maktub), primary school category A and category B. The arrangement is very simple and practical.

The community applies for construction of a school building and provides free land at an appropriate location, and a team comprising the local villagers takes the responsibility of construction of the school building and also undertakes to arrange unskilled labour.

The selection of the project for funding is finalized by the Foundation in consultation with the education department that keeps in view the population and location of the school. The project is then sent to the donors for funding.

Since its inception in 1987 the Foundation has built 52 elementary schools, 185 Primary schools (A & B) in various part of Baltistan. An engineer from the Foundation monitors the progress and the funds are released at various stages of construction.

On completion of the buildings, these are handed over to the government education department, registered and well established NGOs or the community for operation and management.

Marafie Foundation continues to support these

schools through grants to meet any specific need indicated to it by the management of the schools.

These schools have provided education on the doorsteps of the population in the remotest corners of Baltistan.

It is only a beginning and a small contribution in addressing a huge problem, but by involving the community and supplementing the efforts of other NGOs and the education department, the plan has showed very positive results in spreading the light of knowledge in the area.

In addition, it has given a chance to the people to break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty and it also provides an opportunity for the brightest amongst them to go on to higher education.

Marafie Hostel Karachi

In order to provide quality education, under the strict supervision of an
educationalist, a hostel was established in Karachi. Initially the students who had passed eighth class were selected through a system of tests conducted by an outside independent body, and two students from each valley were finally selected for places at the Marafie Hostel in Karachi. There, they were enrolled in a good school and regular evening tuition was also arranged for them.

These students stayed in the hostel till they passed the FSC examination. This prepared them to compete for admission to the professional colleges.

 With the general improvement in education in Baltistan, the selection for admission to the hostel is restricted to students who have passed their high school examination, and now the numbers have risen to fifteen every year. They are admitted to various colleges and with extra tuition they prepare for FSC examination and admission to professional colleges.

The experiment has been a success and provides a rare opportunity for the
students from Baltistan to compete with the students at national level. The table showing the outcome of this arrangement and is proof of its success. The academic record of these students and their success is reflected in the table.

Other Initiatives

In addition to these two major areas, Marafie Foundation has also extended assistance to the students from Baltistan who are studying in colleges all over the country.

Accommodation for Students in Karachi

The Foundation provides funds for accommodation for students from Baltistan who are studying in Karachi at the Dawood College of Engineering & Technology and Karachi University. Currently, 45 students benefit from this facility.

Scholarship Scheme for Students

The Marafie Foundation also provides scholarships to the students from Baltistan who cannot afford to bear the expenses for higher education.

Nearly 419 students have benefited from the assistance and have continued with their education in disciplines as diverse as engineering, business administration and medicine.

These students are studying in various institutions all over Pakistan such as Dawood Engineering College, Sindh Medical College in Karachi and the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore. The Foundation monitors their progress regularly.

At its annual meeting of the Board of Trustees the Foundation has now decided
to set up a separate fund to enhance the funding and also look for additional
resources from other sources such as contributions from former Marafie students and other donors.

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