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Lyari Street schools | Learning Japanese

Street schools - a distinct feature of Lyari
Karachi, July 17, 2008: Once street schools were a distinct feature of Lyari, as they were not found in any other part of the city, but their number has come down from more than 60 to only six over the past few years.

Baghdadi Saifi Lane is known for three such schools, where a free education centre was established in the 1980s in Bombassa Street.

A corner of the street is reserved to serve as classrooms while the walls are used as blackboards. It is really fascinating to see children without any uniform taking classes in a street corner, separated by a hanging piece of cloth.

The project was designed by the area youth, who were mostly university and college students, to fight illiteracy and poverty and to protect children from the influence of drugs. It was a novel concept, which was then adopted and implemented in other localities.

Streetlights help this school, supported by a local NGO. The school remains open till 11pm. In some of the schools, primary classes begin from 4pm and end at 6pm, while secondary classes start at 6pm, higher secondary at 8pm, followed by graduate and higher studies classes that continue till 11pm.

There are two main reasons why these street schools were set up and why they were immensely popular. Firstly, Lyari is notorious for its gang warfare and the associated problems. Secondly, area people can hardly afford to send their children to private schools, while the level of education offered at government schools is far from satisfactory.

The education centre, popularly known as Baloch Free Education Centre, Baghdadi, was a ray of hope of many poor families who could not afford to send their children to formal schools. However, it gradually disappeared as the gang warfare gripped the area.There was a time when there were more than 60 street schools in Lyari. At present there remained only six, three in Baghdadi and three in other parts of Lyari, a school teacher said.

Nadeem Baloch, a senior teacher of a Rotary street school besides holding an executive post in another school being run by Anjuman Raza-i-Mustafa, said that there used to be 200 students in the school. But half of them left due to frequent incidents of firing in the locality.

He said, "Parents do not send their children to the school out of the fear of violence, which is a common occurrence in the locality."

"Most teachers are providing free service though our street school charges a nominal fee of Rs35 under the teachers support programme," he said, adding that students were helped by the administration in terms of fees if they decided to continue their studies.

About ratio of male and female students, he said, "Over the past few years, girl students showed more interest in studies and are more regular than boys. At present, girls make up almost 60 per cent of the total students."

Mr Baloch said the gang warfare hampered their system very much. "We hardly have regular classes now. Every other day we come to know that the situation in the area is tense so parents are afraid to send their children to school," he pointed out. The schools that were supposed to have resumed three or four months ago could not do so due to uncertain law and order conditions.

Students complain that because of the prolonged intervals between academic sessions they forget much of what had been taught to them. "Most of the children belong to families that are not very educated. So when there are no classes in session, the parents hardly ever bother to teach their children themselves," the teacher said.

He was of the view that in the absence of a proper education system, the children of Lyari were greatly influenced by gangsters. "Teenagers seem to be fascinated by the very idea of guns and violence. And the reason for this is the lack of recreational facilities and constant disturbances in their education. The youngest gang member is said to be an eleven-year-old boy who has been given a gun," he said.

When asked if the parents were aware of the situation and the direction their children were heading in, he said, "Of course they are aware. But they cannot ask the child to leave the gang as they fear that their child will be killed the moment he does so."

By Latif Baloch (Dawn)

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City, Country:KARACHI

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Learning Japanese to get a global edge
Karachi: When twelve-year-old Reema Jawed decided to learn Japanese, her friends thought she had gone mad. Jawed was undeterred. She adores Japanese movies, Japanese computer games, and above all, anime, the popular Japanese-style cartoons.

"I am a total fan of Higurashi Kagome in Inu Yasha," she says, referring to the time-travelling main character of an anime series. Inu Yasha is aired in English, too, but it makes little difference to Jawed. "I want to fully relate to the characters." Jawed's motivation to learn Japanese is an unusual one. The language's tricky grammar and difficult pronunciation are effective barriers at keeping out nearly everyone except those who have no choice but to learn it. When Yousef Umer briefly moved to Tokyo for a six-month training course, he became one of the ones forced to study the language. "All the sign boards in Japan are in Japanese. Few people know English."

Japan is home to some of the largest financial service companies and business groups worldwide, such as Sony, Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, and Toyota. With the stock exchange market in Japan (Tokyo Stock Exchange) being the second largest in the world, there are many other people like Umer who learn Japanese to either avail attractive job opportunities or expand their business.

Here in Karachi, the Japanese Consulate is one of the few Japan-oriented centres that gives them a platform to learn Japanese. Victor Dsouza, who works for the consulate's cultural section, lists all activities it has undertaken recently:

"There was a Japanese speech contest, a film festival, a calendar exhibition, a Mushaira and Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangements) workshops."

Malaika Hasan, a student, had always been fascinated by Ikebana in particular and Japanese culture in general, something that led her to pursue a government scholarship to Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture has been offering six different types of scholarships to students since 1954. They have a student exchange programme, and it is this that Hasan is anxious to be a part of.

"It sounds crazy, but yes, that is why I am learning the language." Learning Japanese is not something that sounds crazy to Ayesha Ataka. Ataka's father, Mohammad Azmat Ataka, is originally from Japan. He moved to Karachi after getting married to his Pakistani wife, Asifa (now a leading name in Ikebana).

This is not as rare as it sounds, there have been many cross cultural marriages in Japan, and in Karachi, Ataka's family is one of many examples where one parent is Japanese. In the Ataka home, everyone speaks Japanese. Ayesha Ataka feels it is essential that she know the language, or, like many others who have parents from separate cultures, she knows she will never be able to fully communicate with her Japanese cousins. She takes a very upbeat view about having to mastering their language. "It's fun to know a language not many other people around you know."

Maria Patel, a student at the University of Karachi, agrees. "Everybody learns French and Spanish. People very rarely learn Japanese. I wanted to do something unique." It was not just her urge to do something unique that drove Patel to her two-year Japanese Course. Patel wants to take her CSS exam and enter the Foreign Service. She knows that Japanese interpreters are highly paid.

Whether it is their ambition to earn truckloads as interpreters or open up business opportunities, the number of students studying Japanese is on the rise. Some find themselves learning because they would be lost without it, as Umer discovered amid a sea of Japanese sign boards. Few take up the course purely for the sake of learning more languages, but the ones who do take up this difficult language emerge from the other side feeling a glowing sense of accomplishment, as Ayesha Ataka and Maria Patel can attest. Or, as ardent anime fan Reema Jawed cheerfully puts it, "I am just addicted to it!"

By Nida Hasan (The News)

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"The article "Learning Japanese to get a global edge" is very helpful for me. Thanks to Nida Hasan."
Name: Kamran
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan

"I really love Japanese culture and im glad that there are other people who want to learn their language. "
Name: Ali Akbar
City, Country: Lahore, Pakistan

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