Ayesha’s Journey of Change

  January 18, 2024   

Chapter 1: Change Came Knocking

There was a knock on their door.

Morning light filtered inside as Ayesha’s father pulled the door open for their visitor. A kind face beamed down at her. This was the first time Ayesha met Ms. Zeenat, a teacher at The Citizens Foundation (TCF) Campus; her visit was to encourage Ayesha’s parents to enrol their children at TCF. The more she talked of the school, the more Ayesha knew this was where she was supposed to be. She had often strolled past it, awed by the red-brick school building and expansive playgrounds, wondering what it was like from the inside.

Ayesha grew up in a village called Bhai Pheru, deep in the heart of rural Punjab. Surrounded by rolling green plains, her village seemed like it was picked up and removed from the rest of the world. Even then, she knew she wanted to cross Bhai Pheru’s boundaries and go out into the wide world.

Her father would move about in a donkey-led cart, finding employment as a labourer. While Ayesha’s mother, a stay-at-home wife, would pick up occasional house-cleaning jobs.

Ayesha knew she had to find a way to get into that TCF School. With few resources at her disposal, Ayesha’s only ally was hard work. She eventually passed the admissions test and would begin the new school year at TCF as a student in Grade 3. This set in motion Ayesha’s longstanding and richly rewarding relationship with TCF.

Chapter 2: The Call

Every morning, Ayesha’s father would take her to school on his donkey cart. She never wanted to miss a single day where she would dive into her books, play with her friends and get lost in her world of learning. Her years at TCF school raced by with joy. Guided by dedicated teachers who believed in her potential, she found herself immersed in a magical realm of learning and exploration. After completing her secondary education, her teachers encouraged that her journey had just begun, urging her to apply to universities.

Finally, the moment arrived when Ayesha anticipated ‘The Call’ waiting eagerly for the results from the university to which she had dedicated herself, every phone ring made her heart skip a beat. When the call from LUMS came, Ayesha was sitting with her parents and siblings.

“I got accepted at one of the best universities in Pakistan,” she whispered.

Her family erupted in cries of joy!

“You have made us very proud today!” her father told her. Her mother hugged her and cried. Ayesha was pleasantly surprised by her family’s response, as she had expected resistance from them.

“But Chaudhary Sahab will never let her go,” came her brother’s voice amidst the celebration.

Chapter 3: The Chaudhary Sahab

Ayesha, accompanied by her father and grandfather, entered Chaudhary Sahab’s house post sunset. They found him sitting on a charpoy (bed), in the midst of a great expanse of tiled flooring. Ayesha stood behind her Nana (grandfather) who arranged this special meeting.

Aware that Chaudhary Sahab’s decision could determine her fate, Ayesha felt the weight of the moment. Overcoming her extended family’s resistance had demanded all her strength, and she feared Chaudhary Sahab’s rejection would shatter her spirit.

Ayesha’s father took the lead, presenting their case.

“No girl has ever stepped out of the boundary of this village for education. What makes you think she will?” Chaudhary Sahab asked her father.

In response, Ayesha’s father gestured for her to reveal the paper she clutched to her chest – her admission offer from LUMS.

“What guarantee do I have that your girl will uphold our traditions away from home?” Chaudhary Sahab pressed.

“Chaudhary Sahab, if my daughter falters, my life is yours,” Ayesha’s father solemnly replied.

Ayesha anxiously shuffled her feet, awaiting the verdict.

“She may go. This letter here is proof of her intelligence. I trust that her intelligence will only ever bring honour to this village,” he finally declared. Ayesha could hardly believe what she had just heard; it was finally happening! She was going to LUMS!

Chapter 4: A Dream Fulfilled

Ayesha faces a hall filled with people, her presentation unfolding just as planned. A triumphant smile lights up her face as she gracefully makes her way back to her seat. Amid the initial challenging months, Ayesha is gradually discovering a sense of belonging at LUMS.

Empowered and clear-headed, Ayesha firmly believes in the attainability of all her dreams through hard work, determination, and, above all, a profound belief in herself and the transformative power of education.

“A business of my own feels like the best way to move forward. Making decisions on my terms, choosing my own hours – all of this feels essential. With a passion for fashion, I envision designing clothes for women,” Ayesha enthusiastically discusses her career aspirations.

Ayesha, the trailblazer from her village, was the first girl to pursue a degree. Her resilience has ignited a spark in other girls, inspiring them to pursue their own educational dreams.

“The doors to education were once closed to the girls in my village. Witnessing this transformation is incredible; so many girls are now passing through those doors. Through education, a positive change has genuinely taken root in our small community.”

In her final semester at LUMS, Ayesha gazes into the future, a life brimming with possibilities. Her journey becomes a symbol of resilience, highlighting the enduring impact of empowerment through education.

On this International Day of Education, we invite you to stand with us in supporting girls like Ayesha who harbour dreams of accessing quality education. Together, let’s make these dreams a reality.