Birth of an Idea
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Birth of an Idea

This story, which seems like a fairy tale, is actually a fascinating reality. In February 2002, a group of concerned citizens volunteered to join hands to do something real and practical for their community. They established Kot Radha Kishan Development Trust (KDT) and began to think of constructive ways to provide high quality education in area which was yet to experience modern civic and social facilities.

The Learning School has come a long way in its physical infrastructure but it is truly the teaching staff that makes this school apart from the rest. With a forty six member teaching staff guided by an able Principal, the hard work of the team is paying off. An evidence of this success is the excellent result of the students obtained in the Metric examination. It should be kept in mind that TLS is completely an English medium school. All of the TLS's young lights shined brilliantly by achieving high marks and first divisions in their science subjects.

At TLS, you just don't learn to be literate. You learn and experience compassion. You learn and experience respect for human rights, peace, tolerance and diversity. You learn to enjoy learning! But most of all, you learn and experience how a group of motivated citizens can bring about change.... A change that everyone can be a part of. Join us in responsible citizenry.

LOCATION

Kot Radha Kishan is situated at 55 km south of Lahore. Administratively it is a sub-division of District Kasur. Kasur city is 35 km in the east and Changa Manga, the first man-made forest of Pakistani is 15 km in the south of Kot Radha Kishan. Main Peshawar-Karachi railway-line passes through this town. It is connected with Lahore-Raiwind, Changa Manga-Chunian, Pattoki, Kasur and Phool Nagar through metal roads.


ABOUT KOT RADHA KISHEN

The Population of Kot Radha Kishan is about 50,000, with an annual growth rate of 2.7%, house hold size 7.4 and literacy rate of about 58%. The population of surrounding villages of Kot Radha Kishan is about 60,000, with a literacy rate of about 35%. These surrounding villages are totally dependent on Kot Radha Kishan for a Railway Station, a Bus Stand, a Post Office, some Banks, Colleges, Girls High Schools, sub-division courts, crops and vegetable market, and purchase of items for their daily use.

The educated people of Kot Radha Kishan as well as of the surrounding villages are mostly depending on government as well as private jobs. Literate people of the town are working as workers in nearly industrial zone of Raiwind as well as in Lahore and illiterate from villages are depending on agriculture. Small numbers of people have power looms industries also in their homes.

In Kot Radha Kishan, the government school system is unable to cater to the needs of fast growing population mainly due to reasons like lack of update training to teachers, student-teacher ratio that is more than 1:50, and a class size of more than 50.  A network of private schools is also operating in the area, but their quality of education is a matter of serious concern. On the other hand, the high profile English medium schools of surrounding area go simply beyond the reach of majority of the residents of Kot Radha Kishan and surrounding villages, with a fee ranging from PKR 3500 to 4,500 per month.

LIBERAL FORUM PAKISTAN - KASUR CHAPTER

A moment was started under the plate form of Liberal Forum Pakistan (LFP), in April 2001 to mobilize the citizens for their political education.

It was realized that LFP has established various chapters in Pakistan and was mobilizing the citizens of Pakistan to participate in the newly established local government system. A need of such movement was realized by the citizens of Kot Radha Kishan. With the consultation of some of the like minded citizens, LFP Kasur chapter was established on 27th April 2001.

LFP arranged several Seminars and Training Workshops in Kot Radha Kishan and a Clean the City campaign was launched with the cooperation of local government newly elected representatives, on 02 September 2001 where thousand citizens participated and cleaned their city. On 10 November 2001 another campaign against the narcotics/drugs was launched with the cooperation of Ayubia Health Club, where young generation warned about the negative affects of the narcotics. Several lectures were arranged in local schools and college by the District Coordinator of Liberal Forum Pakistan.

KOT RADHA KISHEN DEVELOPMENT TRUST

After attending the seminars and campaigns under the platform of Liberal Forum Pakistan, the citizens of Kot Radha Kishan were much enthusiastic to do much more for their town. They realized that they dearly needed a school that will provide quality education to the semi urban and rural area students.

In November 2001, a group of citizens of Kot Radha Kishan including union nazims, naib nazims, councilors, teachers, medical doctors, businessmen and some civil society members started their weekly meetings to discuss the possibility of such a good school with an affordable tuition fee. During the meetings an educationist - Dr. Farooq Ahmed Kunwar (late) was also requested to share his ideas. Different ideas were proposed during the discussion such as to request the owners of good reputation schools to open their branch in the town, to sell the shares to the citizens of the town let them have profit after the school is made, or to request some donor agencies for the opening a school.

At the same time, some of the members narrated the stories of the other good reputed schools. Finally it was decided that the citizens should make their own school for their children. During the meetings and discussions, it was decided that a trust in the name of the town "Kot Radha Kishan Development Trust" should be established and the school should run under this trust and later on some other project could be taken up. Dr. Farooq Kanwar was approached to prepare the feasibility for the school.

A leading physician of the town, Dr Noor Ahmed Akhtar had already announced that if school was to be established, he was willing to donate 10 kanal of land. Later, he generously donated six acres more land for the school. After conducting the weekly meetings at Dr. Noor Ahmed Akhtar's residence, after about two months Mr Muhammad Anwar, a social worker working in a German Foundation (Friedrich Naumann Stiftung), advised the panel that it was then clear that a school was to be build so each of the trust members should donate a minimum of PKR Two hundred thousand.

THE LEARNING SCHOOL

During Last week of December 2001, another sitting of the group was arranged at Sheikh Shaukat Ali's residence who is Chairman, Anjaman-e-Tajran (Traders body) of Kot Radha Kishan. The funds were announced for the school by the participants. This meeting was followed by the beginning of the mission to collect the maximum funds.

During first week of January 2002, the collection of funds was stated and at the same time a structure of the Trust was formed .It was decided that Dr. Noor Ahmed Akhtar was to be the Managing Turstee of the Trust and Mr. Muhammad Anwar as General Secretary. At the same time, Dr. Sameena Noor was selected as the Deputy Managing Trustee and Sheikh Shaukat Ali as Treasurer. When the trustees approached to organization for funds, the people asked them the reason they had paid a large sum of money. They kept on convincing them that it was their moral, social and even religious duty to spend their money on a good cause and the only benefit they want was that the citizen of the area would recognize their services for the community and surely some more groups will form in this fashion.

Within one month Rs.2.2 million were collected through trust members donations. Mr Arif khan - an architect was hired from Lahore and the building plan was ready by end of January 2002. The trust had to be registered in Islamabad as the relevant authorities in District Kasur resorted to all possible delaying tactics. The trustees had decided to start the school in April in its own building. The race against time had thus started.

The earth digging ceremony was held at the site on 5th February by Hazrat Mian Noor Muhammad Nusrat Noshahi of Sharqpur Sharif and Dr. Farooq Ahmed Kanwar. The foundation laying work started in the 3rd week of February. The school is situated 200 meters away from the main road so the landlords of the surroundings co-operated a lot and donated their land available for a 20 feet wide link road. Later on the District Nazim, was kind enough to get it bricked and in 2004 MPA, Sardar Shaukat Ali Dogar arranged a carpeted road. The classes were to start from 8th April 2002 but Eid holidays, rain, theft and electric wires were some of the hurdles that came into the way. One thing, which never lacked in the process, was the will to achieve the objective - completion of first phase and start of classes on 8th April 2002.

The commitment is reflected through the fact that an advertisement for staff required wad made in Daily Jang, Lahore on 10thFebruary 2002, the next Sunday after the digging ceremony. After the advertisement several candidates visited the site to see the school but gave up hope as they were not ready to accept that this school was to start in a very short period of time.

Within two months several tasks were completed that includes Construction of the school building comprising 12 class rooms (8,500 sq ft), selection of the school staff and their orientation trainings, admissions, arrangements with the banks for fee collection through challan forms, transport arrangements for pick and drop to the students and teachers from Kot Radha Kishan and surrounding villages, Selection of the Uniform, selection of the syllabus that should be approved by the Government and useful and cheaper for our students, and arrangements of the generators, electricity and construction of the road towards school from the main road.

The most important task was to involve the community in the whole process and they should realize that it is their own school and they should send their children to the school, for which every week-end visits to different villages were arranged and video presentations through multi-media were given showing the under-construction building and our future plans.

As the school is one kilometer away from the town, so citizens were hesitating to visit the site and to see our efforts in the construction of the building, so on every weekend ,a video recording of the under construction building, commitment of the contract, masons, workers, and the interview of the Trust Chairman that were made. Some fliers were also prepared and distributed in whole the town with the story.

The Most important task was to name the school. Several names were suggested by the friends. THE LEARNING SCHOOL was suggested by Mr. Zafarullah Khan (Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education, Pakistan) that was immediately approved by all the trust members and the founder principal.

There were a number of resisting forces who did their best to delay and project. The private schools took it as a threat to their existence forgetting that a maximum exit from their schools on individual basis could not be more than 10 to 15% (it proved true later on). Some community members who had personal misgivings with the trustees started propagating adversely. Some religious people were worried that this school their children will be away from religion. The officials WAPDA could not complete their work on time and generators had to be installed. In first week of May 2002, WAPDA provided electricity for which trust paid more than three hundred thousand Rupees for the towers and the wires from main road to the school campus. Trust members worked for three days and nights with the electricity department officials and were successful when at 10.30 pm the electricity of whole area was suspended and wires of the School towers were joined with the main electricity lines. This did cause inconvenience for the citizens, but they realized that it was indeed for their own good.

The supporting forces outdid the resisting forces. The supporting forces were the will and work of the trustees, neighboring landowners, newly elected local government representatives, educated and well-meaning citizens of the town and the technical support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation (a German Foundation).

By the grace of God, The Learning School started its work on 8th April, 2002 in its campus. 12 class rooms were ready for the classes from Nursery to 7th and 150 students were enrolled from 1st to 8th April 2002.  We applied for funds for construction of two class rooms to German Embassy and a sum of Rs.412,000 were funded that was the first funding for our school. In 2003, when Mr. Arno Keller, the then Resident Representative, Friedrich Naumann Stiftung was leaving Pakistan on completion of his tenure, the name of this block was made "ARNO KELLER BLOCK", to recognizes his technical and moral support to the school as well as the Kot Radha Kishan.

LET'S LEARN

The Learning School has a motto of "let's Learn". It invites the students, teachers, parents, managers, and the community to learn from each other. The three main objectives of the school are:

  • To provide English medium environment where English is actively used as a language of communication and which can help rural folk to complete with urban people.
  • To ensure maximum "Thinking opportunities" for the students by using questioning, inquiry teaching and cooperative learning and providing ample opportunities for creative speech and writhing through language use.
  • To inculcate the necessary self-confidence and social skills among the students through role modeling and co-curricular activities, which can make them useful citizens in their practical lives
  • TLS is proud to enroll more than 1,100 students, provide employment to 90 staff members, and have 58 class rooms, a book shop, a canteen, a large play ground and provide a healthy environment.
 
The most important credit that TLS gained  from 2002 on wards is the Trust of the citizens of the area that has been build and they are happy to admit their lovey kids at The Learning School.