Providing Karachi's underprivileged children with an opportunity to gain an education and groom themselves, new initiative the 'Nazia Hassan Foundation' will possibly be the first of its kind in the city.
Muniza Basir, mother of the famous Pakistani pop artist, spoke to Images about the family's latest initiative.
"We are working towards establishing a school here in Karachi, but this is not just any other school in Pakistan. This school is specifically dedicated to the grooming and education of working children on the streets - who have been burdened with the expectation of earning for their entire families at the expense of their own education," she says.
She further explains, "Our school aspires to offer these children a course on whatever they are already doing as a profession, while also teaching them basic subjects such as English, mathematics, computer skills and history. The aim of this initiative is to brush up skills that would help them flourish in their profession, while also being capable of going and taking up their work in any other place and not having to worry about getting by."
While they hope to branch out to other parts of Pakistan, Muniza believes that "charity begins at home".
"Karachi was where Nazia was born, and like millions of other people - it is her home. We plan on starting out here, and Karachi has the greatest number of such children running around, looking for any kind of work that will get them doh wakt ki roti," reasons Muniza.
Since the school has been named after the singer, was it Nazia’s wish to launch her own school?
"Nazia's wish wasn’t [specifically] to launch her own school, but her wish was for Pakistani children to be able to earn a living, while also being able to get educated so that they don’t ever get left behind. An educational program is good for any poverty-ridden country," replies Nazia's mother.
While the students will be taught to work on the skills and talents they already have, music courses aren't something the family is specifically aiming to seek. "We haven’t thought of it as of now, it all depends on the children. At this moment in time, we only care about putting in hard work," says Muniza.
They aim to provide a long term solution to children who grow up on the streets by providing them with diplomas from established universities.
"We will be offering a five-year course for our students, and have been reaching out to universities who can authorise and give these students a diploma. With this diploma, they can earn their livelihood anywhere. As we are sure that the universities will promote this initiative, it is to our great pleasure to announce that our students will now also have the option of pursuing higher education!" she says.
And so far Muniza says that the project has been entirely self-funded. "At this moment in time, I have gotten help from my husband. When I came back to Pakistan, I knew that this is the time to work for the project that Nazia always had in mind. I had another full time responsibility of bringing up Nazia’s little toddler (who is now studying Law and History at King's College)," she explains.
It didn't take much to convince Nazia's father and he was on-board with the idea without any hesitations.
"I saw a building which belongs to our family. I was aware that from a business perspective Nazia’s father would take some time thinking over the prospect before handing it over to me. I asked him hesitantly, “What about this building of yours?” It’s in a prime area to set up a learning centre for children. I remember that it was Nazia’s wish, and she was working on it even at that time. I knew that this property is too expensive to be used as a centre of education, but I was shocked to hear Basir respond with, “What could be more valuable than my beti’s wish, and all these children’s lives and futures?”
Is there a way others can help and contribute?
"At this moment in time, it is our family working on this - but people have already come forward," she says. "This country has many people who have love for this country, and for the children of this country, in their hearts. When we open a branch to formally accept donations for this school, we’ll be sure to let you know."
"We believe in education for children no matter what their circumstances, and no matter how poor they are. Education is every little child’s right, says Muniza. And she is hopeful others will join hands with them so that they can open more schools in other parts of Pakistan.
The tentative name for the school is the 'Nazia Hassan Foundation', but Muniza says it may change to Nazia Hassan’s Schools for Studying. So far there is no confirmation of the school's opening date.