The Garden of Knowledge
bostaan/باغ = garden, ilm/علم = knowledge – A five-year non-profit primary school for underprivileged and working children in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, serving 180+ students in two localities.
Bostaan’ilm is a co-ed afternoon school for children aged 4-14 years. Founded in 2003, Bostaan’ilm started with 15 students when a private school offered its school building for use – rent and utilities free – after their school hours.
The children are provided uniforms, books and stationary, and sit in real classrooms with all the facilities of a private school. There are no overhead costs, so 100% of donations are used to educate these children. The cost to educate one child at Bostaan’ilm for an entire year is only Rs.3,000 (US $32 and £20).
Since 2006, more than 85 students have graduated from Bostaan’ilm School. These graduates can read and write basic Urdu and English, and calculate basic Math. During their time at Bostaan’ilm, they have explored Science, participated in Character Building projects, found their voices in Singing Class, and developed their talents through their art work.
Through community partnerships with SLS School, Saint Mary’s Academy Lalazar, and Jack & Jill School, the top five position holders of each graduating Year 5 class receive full scholarships to continue their studies through high school. One girl every year is chosen for the prestigious Bilal Omer Khan Scholarship that funds her studies through her Masters. To date, 33 graduates of Bostaan’ilm have received scholarships to continue schooling.
Every student at Bostaan’ilm comes with a compelling life story
Government schools require a sifarish, a written bribe by an army officer or other influential post requesting admission. Even then, space is limited and the quality of education is poor. Private education is unaffordable for most of the population. For many of our graduates, they are child workers who have overcome life’s obstacles to become the first in their family to learn to write their names, read, or receive any formal education. We are creating opportunities that have been limited by the lottery of birth.
There are heartbreaking endings when circumstances don’t allow the brightest students to continue their education, but there are also beautiful inspiring stories. Afghani-refugee families who used to send only their sons started trusting the school enough to start sending their daughters. The school has a constant wait list because there are simply not enough teachers or classes.
Our mission is to provide quality education for underprivileged children through community partnerships. With additional funding, our hope is to serve a larger number of children, expand Bostaan’ilm to more locations, and offer classes up through high school.