Pind Bhagwal is a village situated in the rural backwaters of Islamabad, deep in the heart of the Pothwar plateau. The area is rife with severe poverty, social discrimination, crime and a level of education that is basic at best and non-existent at worst; most inhabitants do not even have claim to a matriculation degree. The families there live in the harshest conditions, many deprived of even the most elementary of facilities. They earn minimum wage through menial jobs, the men working as private property guards, public vehicle drivers and conductors, and laborers, and the women working as maids or house cleaners.
Every family has an average of five or six children that the parents can ill afford to raise with the means at their disposal. It is not unusual for the children to grow up ignored at home and, once of age, to work the same jobs as their parents in order to contribute towards the family’s meager living. Faced with few other options, some of them turn to crime.
Husband and wife Raja and Sadia Qaiser belong to the Pothwar plateau area. Their awareness of the challenges of life in the region prompted them to do what they could to help uplift the living conditions of the local people. Working in France and Spain, till six years ago, Qaiser sent remittances regularly to be given to those families of the area that were in greatest need, aimed at helping them improve their circumstances. However, it seemed that despite regular amounts of funds being channeled into local homes, there was very little progress. They discovered that the people, accustomed to receiving monetary aid on a regular basis, tended to eschew personal effort and had allowed themselves to become entirely dependent on what they were given. Qaiser and his family then made the decision to bring about the change they desired in a different way: by focusing on the children.
They conducted a visit of the schools in the area and what they found gave rise to serious concerns. The schools were inadequately equipped; most of them were without basic facilities such as seating for the students and electricity. The teaching staff was untrained and often possessed only the bare minimum of education. Worse, students of the lower castes, who constitute nearly 4 out of every 5 children in this region, were discriminated against by their fellow classmates as well as their teachers. The Qaisers believed that the children deserved much better education than what they currently had access to. Also, they feared that the run down living conditions, the lack of an adequately nourishing environment, and intolerance fueled by ignorance was not only wasting the lives and potential of the children, but was also putting them at prime vulnerability to terrorist head-hunters. The severely limited resources of the local households meant that the education Qaiser and his family wished to provide for the children would have to be entirely free of cost.
In 2006, Qaiser’s family donated the land where a school would be constructed. In the meantime, a local building was leased to serve as the temporary premises of the institution.
It was named ‘The House of Light.’
(July 24, 2017)