Irshad Ali Lakhan – Paying it forward

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Having access to education is still a privilege in many parts of the world. It is a bitter truth that the bane of illiteracy darkens many countries. This tide of illiteracy, which consigns future generations to a lifetime of menial jobs, is being turned back by a few good people. One of them is Irshad Ali Lakhan from the “Katcha” in Sindh.

The “Katcha” where Irshad hails from, was a place riddled with fear and darkness. It was ruled by dacoits who had their own rules and laws. Prior to the year 2001, no one from government or relevant law enforcement authorities could even imagine setting foot in the area. Irshad reminisces that the people of his area had no freedom and were always fearful of the dacoits.

In 2001, Engro started development projects in Irshad’s Katcha area and opened schools. Engro’s “Katcha School Program” aimed to provide education to the children and youth in Katcha area, Ghotki District in Sindh. By training locals and providing them education, the program aimed to foster knowledge as well as create livelihood for the betterment of those residing there.

Irshad himself as a child was enrolled in one of these schools. This education was not always easy. Irshad narrates that the villagers were very afraid of the repercussions of their children receiving education. His own father was fearful but did not ever stop him from going to school. Instead, he would come home every day in the afternoon saying that he only came to eat lunch, but Irshad knew that he would do so to check if Irshad had returned home safely.

Education broadened the horizon for Irshad and he realized that there is a world of possibilities beyond what he had always seen all his life. He understood that he is capable of much more and that he does not need to keep living like this. After eleven years, now that Irshad has completed his education, he didn’t go on and choose a career. Instead mindful of the area he came from and to ensure that no child is left behind Irshad came back to teach at the same school that he received education in.

To see Irshad’s journey firsthand, take a look at the embedded video. Irshad says that he realized that since he was given the chance to improve his life, this gave him a responsibility. He understood that it fell upon him to ensure that no child from the Katcha became a victim of violence or got involved in any criminal activity. He says that “Just like a boat takes a person from one place to another, education takes people from evil to good”. After teaching in the Katcha with Engro’s foundation for three years, Irshad has now opened eleven schools in association with Sindh Education Foundation for the Katcha and nearby populations. After all his efforts Irshad only sees a bright future ahead for the children of his area. He is proud of the fact that guns have been replaced by pens. Irshad’s story is an inspiration for all those who want to challenge the conditions they were born in and want to pull themselves out of darkness, and a reminder that no matter how bad things are, if you have will and the desire to give back social progress is always possible.

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