by Yumna Rafi
In a scanty house off Mauripur Road in Lyari, loud shrieks of boisterous laughter roar through the air as 12-year-old Iqra, along with her siblings, races around their narrow patio. Their mother listlessly tries to hush them down, seemingly unaware of what was to occur later that day. It is August 2012 and a calamity is going to strike, stripping her children off their childhood. Today, Iqra’s father abandoned the family, giving no explanation or reason.
‘I would always remember the date Abu left, I won’t ever forget,’ says Iqra, now 18, as she recounts the ill-fated day and the testing times that left her family scrambling to survive.
The incident had a profound effect on Iqra’s mother. There was no time to heal from the psychological trauma of the event. The prospect of her children’s bleak future further deteriorated her already ailing health, leading to worsening kidney pain.
Iqra’s eldest brother started contributing to the household by continuing what his father did: Make and sell suitcases. But despite his hard work and well intentions, the young teenager struggled to make any meaningful contribution. Iqra’s Rs. 1000 fee at her former private school now seemed to be an extravagance.
Turning their fate
With a stroke of luck, Iqra’s mother found out about a TCF School which eased her worries regarding her daughter’s education– she heard it was known for its quality education and had a nominal fee. There was no looking back ever since, Iqra was quickly enrolled in 8th grade of TCF’s Cowasjee campus.
‘When we found out that we would pay only Rs. 20 for TCF, I was beyond elated. I could sense a new opportunity opening in life,’ says Iqra
She found a different teaching style at her new school which augmented her learning enabling her to understand concepts with new perspectives. ‘The teachers were very different here. They took a personal interest in our development. It was as if I was being exposed to the world around me for the first time. I grew much more confident over time as well.’
With a little push and encouragement, Iqra fared better than the rest of her peers, securing first position in her final exams in grade 10.
Pulling her own weight
It did not take long for Iqra to lift herself away from self-pity, she soon began contemplating ways with which she could support her family. With blazing determination far greater than her years, Iqra set out to find an after-school teaching job.
It was a quick appointment; she was offered a teaching job at her previous school as an English and Maths teacher for younger children, and then for higher grades as well. This swift buildup made her eager to further push herself and decided to work at home after her job by giving tuitions to 6 and 7 graders.
In her 10th grade, TCF representatives from the Head Office and the College visited Iqra’s school and encouraged students to apply for the entrance test of their newly initiated venture: TCF College. Needless to say, Iqra jumped on the possibility and passed the entry test; she is currently pursuing her pre-engineering (1st year Intermediate) at the TCF College, while also juggling two jobs.
At the College, Iqra is receiving an excellent education, centred on the 3 pronged agenda of the college:
• Helping students secure competitive results in Intermediate
• Perform well in University entrance examinations
• Personality development
She intends to pursue a career which is technical and involves logic: ‘I think a lot,’ says Iqra.
The household which once had no breadwinners now has three incomes coming in, however meagre. Iqra’s mother has taken up a job at a beauty salon, and is also getting treatment fro
m ‘Shaheen Dawakhana’. Her eldest brother, now 19, works at an internet provider and sells connections to households.
‘Kuch bhi ho bachon ki parhai nahi rukni chahiye [No matter what, my children should not stop acquiring education],’ says Iqra’s mother.
Life is slowly getting back on track after having spiraled out of control, but the family still has an uphill battle to face, each day becoming an endeavor to survive.
‘At times there is no food in the afternoon. Dinner is the only time we eat properly. When my mother cooks for us at night, she sometimes cries’, says Iqra with tears in her own eyes but tries to put on a brave face.
‘But we are hopeful. We have come a long way. Khuda nay bohot meherbani ki ham par aur kare chalay jar aha hai [God has bestowed upon us His blessings]. I am so privileged to be a part of the TCF College, where I have attained a spot by clearing a comprehensive entrance examination. I am going to make the most of this opportunity.’