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Small Town, Big Dreams

Small Town, Big Dreams

By Sonam Chawla, YES 2011-2012, Pakistan

It's been eight months since I have been living in a small village called Usta Muhammad, District Jaffrabad, Baluchistan. We had to leave Karachi where my family lived as soon as I got back from the YES program because of our family crisis. Meanwhile, my family migrated to India and I couldn't leave as my visa hadn't arrived.

Since it’s a small town with very few educational facilities or good teachers, some of my cousins asked me to teach them English. They knew that I lived in USA for a year and improved my English. The environment here is also very conservative. Girls are not allowed to go to school here. Girls are often kidnapped here therefore the parents are too afraid to ever let them go far out of the house. Schools are not so safe here. I started to teach English to my cousins. As the town people heard about a female tutor who teaches English at home, they thought it's a good chance for their daughters to learn English. Since those girls were not allowed to go to school, going to a home tuition and a female tutor seemed to be a better option to them. Gradually, people started coming and taking home tuitions from me.

Eventually, I got 30 girls who wanted to learn English. Girls from the age of 13 to 19-year olds came to me to learn English. Most of them belonged to middle class families, a few of them were from rich families also but due to the conservative culture and norms in the society, they were not allowed to go to school. Many of the girls who come to learn English are poor. I didn't charge any money to the poor girls and taught them for free. We started with very Basic English. A few of them had some idea about Basic English Language. I encourage them to speak English and they feel very happy when they can speak some sentences. I used Internet and my cousin's journal as my guide sources. I have been teaching them for 7 months now, beginning with basic structures and grammar. Most of my students are able to speak some English now and it makes me proud when I look at them speaking and learning new things. They also bring stuff from the Internet and ask me to explain it to them. They are taking more interest in the other subjects as well. They realize the value of education when they watch English movies and now can understand the dialogues going on there. It wouldn't be a big deal for a big city girl but for these small town dreamers, it's a victory and they feel empowered.

These small town girls dream about studying further and getting higher education. Most of my students want to study further. A few of them want to be English language teachers. Unfortunately, their environmental conditions and restrictions put on girls’ education because of the cultural norms do not allow that. When I was a young girl from a small town in Baluschistan, the most backward province of Pakistan with the lowest literacy rate, I went through these troubles too and have experienced the same. My family realized my love for education and moved to the big city Karachi so that I could go to a good school there and can make my own career. There I got the YES scholarship and went to the USA. When I got this amazing platform of the YES Alumni, I always wanted to bring education in the small towns of Pakistan for girls. So that other girls like me, could make their own identity and get their rights of education. This English tutoring helped me fulfill my dream. I am glad I could do something for Pakistan.  It was not much; I wish I could do more.