Mr. Ghulam Murtaza, also known as ‘Doctor’ in his native village, has made it possible for 30 girls from villages Sarkalan and Laphi (District Chakwal in Pakistan) to rejoin their school. He had served as a paramedic staff at Ganga Ram Hospital Lahore for over 20 years and at Kala Bagh Hospital for another 5 years. This is the precise reason for his nick – doctor.
As he retired from his medical service and came back to his native village, he found that there were too many problems people were facing. There was no water supply system, and women had to walk for miles to bring a bucket of water in the hilly terrain. He made efforts to get a tube well installed in the village. This success added to his stature as a community worker, and he gained a lot of respect.
His next target was making it possible for girls from his village to study up to secondary level. There was a primary school in the village, but the secondary school for girls is situated some 10 kilometers away in the nearby town of Buchal Kalan. Of course, girls could not walk this distance twice a day every day. Public transport is scant and is considered unsafe for young girls. Furthermore, it was really very difficult for most of the parents of this far off village to afford the luxury of transport and education for their girls.
Thus, girls would stay at their homes and help their mothers in household chores after completing their primary education. Many girls would get married at an early age of 13 or 14 years, which made life even more difficult for them. Mr. Murtaza decided to do something about this important issue. He contacted various organizations including Bedari for facilitating girls’ education up to secondary level.
Bedari was already supporting more than 20 girls in a nearby village Ransial. It decided to extend its “Girls’ Post-Primary Level Education Program” to another village. Girls Education International (GEI) agreed to provide financial assistance, and Bedari asked Mr. Murtaza to identify girls for the proposed project.
It was not an easy task. ‘Most of the people would not even like to hear about this project initially. If father agreed to send his girl to school, mother would disagree as she would lose a support for household chores’, recalls Murtaza. As he managed to convince a few families for sending their girls to school, somebody taunted them about getting charity from NGOs. This taunt jeopardized the whole project.
However, this problem was overcome by reintroducing the program as a scholarship program. Only those girls who had completed their primary education could qualify to receive this scholarship. ‘It really worked’, Murtaza smiles and adds, ‘everybody wanted his daughter to qualify for this scholarship’. All of a sudden, there were 21 girls enrolled for the program and there were demands from Sarkalan – a nearby village – for extending this program to their village. Bedari agreed and selected 9 girls from Sarkalan for this program.
Since then, 30 girls are going to Government High School Buchal Kalan. A van provides them pick and drop service. They are provided with uniforms, shoes, books and other stationery items. Three girls have completed their education up to secondary level and are going to college now. ‘This is for the first time that any girl from our village has completed secondary education… thanks to Bedari’, Murtaza states proudly. Zofishan and Adila Kausar have stood first in their respective classes in the annual exams. These two small villages will soon have 30 educated families. ‘It will definitely bring a lasting change in these villages’, Murtaza says as he shakes hands with Bedari representative who leaves for Islamabad.