Judith’s Reading Room Library at Aitezaz Hussain Shaheed School
The story of the Judith’s Reading Room Library at Aitezaz Hussain Shaheed School from Basarat Kazim, 2015 Grand Prize winner of the Freedom Through Literacy Award. Thank you Basarat for sharing!
It was the 6th of January 2014.It was a cold, misty morning. School had been in session for almost a week. Hangu has a long summer break and the winter holidays are brief. Aitezaz had come back to school with his usual smile and helpful attitude. He had also made plans to work really hard and excel in his studies.
So,happy and alert he was a short distance away from school when a fellow student called out, “Aitezaz, look! That man has something which doesn’t seem right”. Aitezaz looked. The man did too. And in that split second, Aitezaz knew what he must do. He understood the man’s motive. He was approaching the school with ill intentions. He was going to create disaster. Aitezaz ran. The man did the same, but before he could enter the gates of the school, Aitezaz grappled with him. The bomb exploded and the two were no more. One a hero, the other a murderer.
And so Aitezaz Hussain of Hangu, a small district in KPK Pakistan, became a national icon, a legend, a Shaheed ( martyr). At the age of 15, he accomplished what many are not able to in much longer life spans.He gave up his own life for the collective good, choosing to die himself but save hundreds others.
Grieving parents and a traumatised school bore this loss with the quiet dignity and grace that has become Pakistan’s lot. So many of its daughters and sons are repeatedly swallowed up by the evil tentacles of terrorism!
When the 1st Judith Reading Room’s library arrived in Pakistan, Aitezaz’s school seemed the right home for it, and so that is where it went, along with furniture, some more books and materials so that the school could have its own library.
The school has lessons in Urdu, Pakistan’s national language, but English is taught as a subject. The students had access to English story books and fiction for the first time. While talking to some teachers from the school I learnt that the high school has been extended to twelve grades now, instead of the previous ten. The older boys who are keen to enhance their skills and knowledge come to the library before school or during free periods to enjoy the books. The dictionary has become a great favourite as they look up meanings of words they don’t know. And the books are opening up new worlds to them. They are reading stories about other lands, other young people and building bridges between cultures. Walls that separate people into ‘the other’ are crumpling. So for Mohammad Shams, aged 10, the library forms another world, one he visits to pick up books, look at their pictures and form words that make up the story. He has one chicken, two goats and a cow at home so stories about animals appeal to him.
Afaq Hussain turned 14 this year. He wants to study medicine and plays cricket in his spare time. Sitting and reading in the library is a favourite past time.
It allows him to dream about his future!
Muallim Ali is 18 years old. He spends volunteer hours at the National Institute of Pharmacy and is keen to learn more about disease control. He also wants more knowledge to further his hobby, and also the family’s need, of growing vegetables.
Books are broadening horizons and creating new possibilities. Thank you Judith’s Reading Room for entering the lives of school children in Hangu, Pakistan.