Author: Shahzmeen Hussain | One of the young ambassadors of Sonia Shah Organization.
Contributor: Angela Ouzeir
In corners of the world where a chalk squeaking against a blackboard is more commonly heard, our students at Sonia Shah School in Kangra, Pakistan gleefully play with their eReaders. Seventy-two Kindles have been introduced to six out of the seven grades at the school of 170 students, 110 of whom are girls. This was possible with the generosity of Dale Copps’ Bookworld with a mission to place a Library of the world’s most important, educational, and entertaining books into the hands of every child in the world. Thanks to one of the board members Greg Mortensen for introducing Bookaworld to Sonia Shah Organization.
For many parents in Pakistan, the most fundamental barrier to sending their children to school is poverty. In 2016, the government determined that about 60 million Pakistanis—6.8 to 7.6 million families—were living in poverty, about 29.5 percent of the country’s population. The new government, elected in July 2018, stated in their manifesto that nearly 22.5 million children are out of school. Girls are particularly affected. Shall I feed my daughter or educate her?
Since its initial brick was set down in 2012, soon after Sonia’s unfortunate passing away, Sonia Shah School has grown exponentially, granting marginalized children from the village an opportunity at life. Those who were never offered a chance to read and write now have access to the latest technology including computers, smart boards, and Kindles – E-readers in the developing world.
These recent technological advancements at the school have swept our students away to the world of the internet – allowing more mobility in their learning and education. Each Kindle has access to 1000 best ebooks selected for their level. This is the first school in the Pakhtoon Khaw province to have individual Kindles along with smart board and computers that can be used uninterruptedly by solar energy. The village has electricity for only 4 hours and load shedding for 20 hours. The Sonia Shah School is 100% run by solar energy providing electricity full day – Rural Pakistan turns to solar panels.
All students also receive textbooks, uniforms, and stationery. A visiting doctor provides basic vaccinations and wellness checks. A water filtration provides daily 800 liters of clean, fresh water to the village and security around the school is top-notch, with high walls, round-the-clock security, and closed-circuit TV cameras.
Recent final exams have also marked the end of the year – a significant accomplishment for students who have been at the school for 6 years, all the way from kindergarten. The school has gifted these students the ability to think on their own, as citizens of Pakistan and future contributors of the world. Sonia’s dream of empowering the unfortunate stays alive through these students’ accomplishments.
SSO also opened a women’s vocational center in 2016, teaching handicrafts and sewing skills to help women support their families. The center has proved wildly successful: all training programs have been full and the waiting list continues to grow. So far over 100 women have been trained in the vocational center and they are now contributing to the income for their families.
“I feel inspired by and hopeful for the young girls coming to school against all odds and changing their futures forever. The road is long but full of hope.” – Sonia Shah