He opted laboring to battle poverty ( Abbas Ali )
Written By Khalid Irshad

A Persian couplet reads as under:

Chahar chheez tohfa ast Multan

Gard-o-Garma, Gada-o-Gooristan

There are four things Multan is known far dust scorching summers beggars and graveyards. Its monumental heritage is of international acclaim. But I went this city to meet a talented son of the saints soil who accomplished the uphill task of bagging top position in 2002 s matriculation examination of the Multan Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education in highly adverse conditions of life.

Topping the board examination while being a member of downtrodden family; residing in a two-marla house with 18-strong family and studying in government schools on stipends is indeed an incredible and marvelous achievement. Battling poverty and undertaking relentless effort is the story of Abbas Ali who bagged the first position in matriculation examination in Arts Group by securing 711 out of 850 marks.

Writing to us for the very first time, Abbas said: I want financial assistance from the foundation you people have established to help out poor and needy students. In Urdu Digests October Edition, I have read that the digests management has given scholarships to deserving students who have topped the Board examinations in length and breadth of the country. However, no organization has helped me.

I am very poor student. I worked as a labourer in part time to meet my schooling expenses. My father is a worker in a textile unit. I have developed a craze to study more and more and to contribute to my countrys development. However abject poverty is the greatest hurdle I have been facing with while pursuing my academic pursuits since day one.

I work in a public call office in part time and also work in my father unit on Sundays to add to my family income. Indulging in manual labour greatly affects my studies, but it is indispensable to meet both ends. My two brothers and two sisters abandoned studying without graduating primary school mainly owing to poverty and if your organization helped me out, I will be able to serve my nation and country by utilizing all my scholastic capabilities.

Mindboggling it was that Abbas who was hardly able to focus on his studies clinched the top position and if this talented youth is provided with resources, why he can not do wonders for his country. However, the Urdu Digest started a monthly stipend for Abbas.

After receiving the first installment, Abbas again wrote us: The financial assistance has reduced my miseries, rather eliminated some of them. I had to traverse a six-kilometre distance by foot to reach college daily. I had no proper uniform and necessary books. I badly needed taking tuitions in mathematics and computer sciences but wherefrom I could have arranged money to fulfill these needs. With the stipend money, I bought a uniform and started paying a vehicle fare to reach college. I am also taking tuitions in mathematics and computer sciences in the evening.

After sometime, Abbas wrote us for the third time: Owing to your organisation sponsorship, I am pursuing my studies with full devotion. However, I had no money to deposit first year examination fee. My father is employed on an Rs100 daily wage but the unit has been closed down. The situation was very painful as unavailability of money could have spoiled my full academic year. In these pathetic days, I received the stipend and this way I was able to send my examination fee on time. I have also been able to save some bucks from the stipends and buy a bicycle.

These letters make us understand what kind of miseries Abbas and thousands of other talented youths are coping with and that if we are able to allocate merely a few rupees out of our enormous resources, they can perform outstandingly to contribute to the development of the country.

As I and our lensman emerged in front of a narrow street in Aam Khas Bagh area of Multan, we found Abbas, his father Abdul Jabbar, grandfather Muhammad Ali and locals anxiously waiting for us. They enthusiastically greeted us as they were extremely glad that a digest team has come all the way from Lahore to encourage the brilliant boy.

The warm reception revealed that passion to share someone happiness is still alive in poor stratum of society, otherwise this kind of values is dying out in middle and elite classes. As we entered the house, symptoms of poverty manifested themselves readily. The two-marla house had many cubicles. It left me wondering as to how Abbas clinched this gigantic achievement while living in this messy house. His father Abdul Jabbar told me that his father (Muhammad Ali) had built this house. The rooms are too small to contain more than three cots.

How many people live in this house? I asked.

18, Jabbar replied and then went on to explain how his parents, his own family, the families of his two brothers and one unmarried brother live in this chaotic house all together. We were seated in a hut-like room, with shabby belongings scattered around. No child was wearing shining dress, indicating how heavy toll poverty has taken on their innocent dreams.

The grandfather of Abbas, Muhammad Ali, opened the conversation: I along with my parents reached here after migration during the 1947 Partition and started manufacturing cloth. Soon, my business began to flourish and I admitted my children to schools. However, a fateful day came when some thieves looted my factory. I borrowed some money and installed the machinery once again but bad luck struck again, and thieves stole valuables and entire machinery from the factory. I spent the rest of my life in bearing the misfortune.

Poverty compelled me to withdraw my children from their schools. Jabbar started working to run the house since he was very young. However, my grandson achievement has relieved me of my remorse that my sons could not become literate. I feel hugely elevated as people now know me more because of my grandson success and less because of my craftsmanship in textiles.All my ancestors were illiterate and still none of my sons children are studying because of paucity of money but we are thankful to Allah Almighty that he gifted us a genius.

Taking part in the conversation, Jabbar said: Owing to financial problems, I had to engage myself in physical labour since my childhood. Though I wanted studying but physical hard work up to 12 hours a day prevented me from undertaking any other task. Abbas was also fond of studying and when I admitted him into a school I thought he would leave the school probably after a few days. But, he proved me wrong and kept on studying wholeheartedly.

As he reached higher classes, he started taking part in physical labour to bear his educational expenditures himself and to add to my limited financial resources as well. We initially thought that Abbas would be able to merely clear the matriculation examination but he brought good name to his entire family by performing superbly. My eyes brimmed with tears eyes when he was being conferred gold medal. I and my spouse express our immense gratitude to Allah Almighty for rewarding us an unimaginable reward. I work throughout the month, without availing any weekly day-off, to earn Rs3,000 per month and except for Abbas, none of my five children is studying.

It is a greatest wonder that a boy who could have studied maximum up to primary level in available conditions is now studying in intermediate. I wanted imparting education to my other children as well, but it is simply out of my reach to finance their studies with paltry Rs3,000 monthly income.

About his educational achievements Abbas said: I stood first from class I to Class X. I topped primary and elementary examinations conducted by an examination board. My teachers Ahmad Ali and Khwaja Naeem helped me prepare myself intensely for the challenging task. In year 2000, a student of our school had bagged 688 marks which proved as a benchmark for us to compete with.

About his living conditions, Abbas said: We are 18 people living in three rooms of this cramped house. The huge noise made especially by siblings and cousins always disturbed my studies. Women members of the family would sleep in the small rooms while men in the courtyard during all weathers.

My teachers set a tremendous example by giving me free tuitions. After school hours, I would sit in the ground till evening to cover my syllabus and would return home only after sunset. Owing to noise and overcrowding, I thought I had failed to fully prepare myself for the matriculation examination at home during nighttime. There was no library in the vicinity where I could have studied some hours in the evening. However, Allah Almighty rewarded me the finest reward and I bagged the top position in the Multan Board. I started undertaking various part-time jobs since I was in Class-VII to meet my educational expenses.

Despite winning a gold medal, Abbas could not get admission to any standard institution, again largely owing to a paucity of resources. Finally, he took admission in Millat College, where his tuition fees is being sponsored by the Urdu Digest.

What are your future plans?I asked the determined young man.

Overwhelmed by sheer hopelessness, Abbas said: Only those people’s dreams of a good future become true who have resources to materialize their wishes. What to speak of future plans when I could not even get admission to a standard college. However, I wanted doing an MBA.

Tears flooded his eyes when Abbas said that he had not received the scholarship money from the Multan Board which was announced at the time of declaration of result. He said that it was mentioned in the commendation certificate conferred on the position holders that they (students) have been paid prize money. However, the Board had not paid them any scholarship or prize money so far.

Abbas studied at Government Islamia High School, Aam Khas Bagh, Multan. Though the school lacks basic amenities, it has always shown good results in matriculation exams, primarily owing to hard work and dedication of its faculty. We went to see Abbas’s teacher Ahmad Ali. He was taking his class attentively. Banners displayed in the classroom highlighted the achievements of Abbas and Sajjad. While Abbas had topped the 2002 matriculation exams, Sajjad had secured third position in the same. Ahmad Ali’s six pupils had secured first, second or third position in the Board exams in recent years.

Ahmad Ali said that it was vital for any teacher to instill confidence into any capable student from the outset so that he could prepare himself rigorously to win any position in the Board exams. Secondly, teacher must inculcate his students with a great sense of responsibility. Besides covering syllabus, it was necessary for a teacher to give writing exercises to his students so that they could write with lucidity and clarity to get maximum marks. He said he always nurtured his students with an exclusive aim that they could secure any position in the Board exams.

A few months ahead of final examination, I start giving a weekly test to my pupils at my home on Sundays to test their aptitude and preparedness. The test is given as per board standards and this helps students attempt their final exams much comfortably and comprehensively. This is how and why most of my students clear the Board exams with a distinction, Ahmad Ali added. The performance of a school highly hinges on its discipline and it is the headmaster who is entrusted with the task of ensuring and maintaining discipline and efficiency of his teachers.

We also met Headmaster Muhammad Yasin Dogar, who is an experienced academician and has full command over administrative affairs of the school. He ensures that academic atmosphere conducive to attaining success is always in place on the campus.

We ascertain the intellect and aptitude of students in advance when they are in Class IX. Then I direct the teachers concerned to focus on the most brilliant ones and fulfill all their academic needs. I hold weekly meetings of the entire faculty to review the performance of teachers and students and to enhance the quality of education we are imparting to our pupils. As our two students, Abbas and Sajjad, secured two of the top three positions in the 2002 examinations, Punjab Governor Lt Gen (r) Khalid Maqbool appreciated the magnificent performance of our faculty and pupils and ordered provision of computers to our school for which Rs300,000 have been allocated. I think this is all because of these students glowing performance that only our school has been shortlisted from the schools of entire Multan district for provision of computers,Dogar added.

About quality nurturing of students, he said: Every teachers must take great pains to examine the answer sheets of students and inform them about their mistakes so that they must not repeat such mistakes and attempt a flawless paper next time. This helps students overcome their shortcomings gradually.

All this amply suggests that there is no dearth of talented students in this country and teachers are also performing their duties industriously and heartily. There are some rotten apples but it will not be justified to hold all members of these two communities guilty of misdeeds. This is need of the hour to appreciate the performance of ardent students and avid teachers so that stray elements also find an opportunity to mend their ways. It would indeed help steer this country’s education system to a right direction.