Four years ago when I visited Pakistan, I had the privilege of visiting a wonderful miracle in the making through the courtesy of my sister, Mrs. Najma Tariq. She had just been hired as the elementary school principal for the new school being constructed adjacent to HIT, a military industrial complex in Taxila Pakistan. As she drove me around the unfinished buildings spread over 100 acres, I was, I must admit, a bit skeptical about the future of this grand vision. Envisioned and initiated by the then Chairman of HIT, General Ghumman, HITEC educational complex was meant to provide, upon one well ordered site, education from elementary to college level to the children of the workers and officers of the factory as well as the children of civilians from around the region. All initial funds were provided by the HIT.
During my first visit I was skeptical because I was certain that this institution, like so many others, would also become an exclusive private school built in the name of the people but maintained by the military elite for the children of the elite, for that is how things usually go in Pakistan. Needless to say, when I visited HITEC this time, all my doubts were dispelled and I found this institution to be, to use a mystical term, purely miraculous. The institution is divided into different grade levels: Elementary, secondary and High school. Beyond the early education sections, the education complex also contains a junior college and a University.
Each school unit has its own principal, teachers, dedicated staff and its own building. All school subdivisions have their own auditorium, a spacious art room, and a two bed “Sick Bay” run by certified nurses. All the teaching staff are provided complimentary housing in the “Teacher’s Colony” walking distance from their place of work. Also provided, at no cost, is childcare for all members of the staff. Just the administrative support made available to the staff and teachers is unthinkable within Pakistan and, most probably, in the United States. As a result, the place exudes confidence and the staff seems to be deeply interested in their mission of educating the children. The students represent all ethnic, gender, religious, and class demographics. The children of factory workers share the same resources and get the same education as their counterparts from affluent families. The fee structure is based on the parent’s ability to pay.
Another aspect of the school system that I found to be of interest and importance was that most of its employees are women. Almost all the Principals, teachers, and academic executives are women, which, while providing wonderful career opportunities for women, also dispels any patriarchal biases about the managerial and leadership abilities of women in Pakistani culture. All these women, leaders, teachers, and others, are a living proof of their professional excellence. These women also, thus, provide wonderful role models for their female students. The school, therefore, does not only provide good education but also reshapes the dreams and aspirations of the students, especially in terms of shattering the gender and class stereotypes.
As I finished the rounds of the well-ordered halls of the elementary school, my sister introduced me to their new head boy (each school has a head boy and a head girl). This young student, a fifth grader, my sister informed me later, was the son of a factory worker and had consistently topped his class from first grade onward. As I shook his slim hand and looked into his eyes, I glimpsed a confident young Pakistani: intelligent, diligent, and hopeful. This child, I thought, would grow up to be our future and will one day look back at his days at this wonderful institution with pride and joy. This little boy, I thought, will never have a reason or desire to join the ranks of all other lost boys whose only hope in life is the ways of death and violence taught to them by their so-called religious teachers.
Pakistan is not a rich country. But this little miracle in the hills of Taxila reminds us that given a chance and a little bit of luck we can, despite the economic problems, create something beautiful, efficient, and everlasting. So here it is: my love and prayers for HITEC and may we have the courage and will to create many more such miracles, for our children need them.