A Voice from the Fairyland.
My name is Saima and I belong to the fabled land of Baltistan. Legend has it that when God planned to build a world for the humankind he thought of reserving a part of it for fairies. Thus the Supreme Architect created snowclad mountains, gurgling streams and lush meadows fit for the habitation of fairies. On second thoughts, however, the plans were shelved and the land allotted to the fairest and most beautiful race on earth that had all the attributes of fairies except wings!
I grew up in poverty and in an environment where education was a rarity among women. However, the household in which I grew up was one of simple living but full of love and sublimity. From the very beginning I knew that I needed to strive in order to rise in life. I must say that in my struggle to excel, I had the full support of my parents. I was the first person from my family to pass the matriculation examination and also the first woman from the village to take up a regular job as a teacher. There was no tradition among my people to send girls to serve away from home even though the life of a woman was (and continues to be) harsh, in this ruggedly beautiful corner of Pakistan. I am happy to note that the trail I blazed was followed by not only my own siblings but numerous other girls, some of whom have gone on to pursue higher studies at a few top ranking institutions in the country.
I got my first teaching assignment in 1999, at Primary School, Tissar, which is located at a distance of some 20 kilometers from my native village of Gulabpur. Greg Mortenson was the person who persuaded me to accept the challenge, which I did. It was not an easy going work. I had to struggle hard in order to make the school a functioning reality, overcoming all manner of difficulties. Once the school had become a viable and going concern, I requested to go back to my own village and start a school there. The request was granted but a host of new challenges were lying in wait for me. For one thing, there was no building available to hold classes. For another, no other educated girl was available to assist me. Undeterred, I started the school at my own house, rent free, and have continued doing so for the next 10 years. I almost singlehandedly shouldered all the responsibilities of running the school. For the most part, it has been an uphill task, which I faced with zeal, grit and determination---qualities expected of a Balti women. In a manner of speaking, I was only playing a role coming down to my time since countless generations of my forbears.
Of late, things have, however, improved considerably. Thanks to visit by Trustee of CAET last spring, things took a rapid turn for the progress in the right direction. Two more teachers have joined my school. CAET has agreed to pay rent for the use of my house as school and also promised to take care of its up keep. They have also decided to undertake the construction of one addition wash room. Events finally seem to have taken a turn for the better. Much better!