There’s something powerful about setting a goal so big that there seems no way of achieving it. But that is what one former school teacher did. She watched a group of people join her, rally towards the impossible with children being the core of this change. “It will be exciting to see what their futures look like as a result of what they have learnt at PES,” said founder of PAFWA Educational System, Begum Tazeen Mujahid.
Tazeen Mujahid had a dream. A vision that would transform learning for students for times to come. A dream to groom the youth of Pakistan in line with the true essence of Islamic teachings and inculcate in them the real meaning of patriotism for the country. A dream to cultivate an education system where the children are not treated as ‘customers’ but given the utmost priority to become useful citizens of the society. A school where, every morning, the children go running to chase their goals and ambitions. A system where teachers are considered the core and given the due respect which they have lost over the years. The dream got its roots almost three decades ago at PAF Base Sargodha. That was, when Mrs Flt Lt Mujahid Anwar Khan took up teaching as a passion in one of the private schools in the vicinity. That was the same time when her two young children also started school. What she experienced in these private school systems were far away from her vision. Majority of these schools were business ventures with the prime objective of generating revenue.
The grooming of children was way down in the priority list of these entrepreneurs.
“Unfortunately, somewhere in our private schools education environment, we do not give our children the opportunity to be who they can be and the freedom to express themselves. Tomorrow’s students are going to need skills that we cannot even imagine now”, Tazeen Mujahid remarked during an interview.
All these impediments used to greatly upset Tazeen Mujahid. However, every passing day only strengthened her resolve to pursue her dream – if given an opportunity, later in life. Decades later, the vision materialised.
With Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan taking over the command of Pakistan Air Force in March 2018, Tazeen’s dream started to see the light of day. Her 15 years of teaching experience were about to be put to the real test. Without wasting much time, she devised a plan to get the things going in the right direction. It was a journey into the unknown, a task which seemed to be ‘Mission Impossible’. However, she kept faith in Allah Almighty. She knew that the time has come to pay back to the nation, to do something for the community. With this, started a marathon of sleepless nights, full of angst and anxiety.
“Why I was worried most of the times, initially, was because I wanted to develop an educational system for the PAF, which lasts permanently. Sometimes, I thought it was impossible to complete this mammoth task in such a short time. However my team always supported and gave me hope, when it was required the most.” Curriculum for the school, hiring of faculty, availability of funds, building / infrastructure designs, formulation of SOPs and other areas needed early attention as she started from scratch. And finally, all the hard work paid off, the miracle happened. The school infrastructure at Islamabad campus was completed in record time and the classes at PES (PAFWA Educational System), kicked off on 22 March 2019.
In the first phase, the PES Primary Schools were established at 15 air force locations, under the personal supervision of President PAFWA. PES strictly adheres to its mission to provide quality education to PAF children at doorstep, in an affordable fee structure, without compromising on the standard of education. With air-conditioned environment, standard uniform classrooms set-up, along with supporting activity rooms, provide hands on learning experience; an opportunity for interactive activities for educational pursuits of students. Audio-visual aids further assist the learning experience. With special emphasis on reaching every student individually, the classroom strength is strictly limited where not more than 20 students are accepted every year.
It was no small task to ask folks to give a little more to pull off this vision, to establish a knowledge and concept based learning experience for the children of air force officers and civilians alike. The idea was to give due importance with significance to discipline, religious teachings and character building of our youth. That’s why, PES’s creators believed in laying the foundation for realistic and modern personalities, embedded in our cultural and social values serving the challenges of a fast changing technological world. Parents were willing to put their faith in PES, to make the impossible, possible.
“They see what is happening with their children and the manners and skill sets their kids are beginning to come home with. They watch their little ones flourish in an environment where there are no boundaries, for them even the sky is not the limit,” said Begum Tazeen Mujahid.
‘Training the Trainers’ remained the top priority of Tazeen Mujahid. That’s why trained, professionally competent staff has to regularly attend training workshops to differentiate their teaching methods. Staff share their experience with their colleagues in order to enrich their academic skills.
Rich reading culture, availability of unique mobile library, with multimedia facilities and variety of books, art, music and sports facilities add richly to the learning experience. The school curriculum is all encompassing and covers all aspects of a wholesome personality. Lots of emphasis are laid on understanding religious teaching and Islamic principles of a true character of a good human being. Well-planned curriculum to enrich learning experience of children, contributes to their innate abilities. The weekly club activities help children explore their painting, drawing, sketching, role-play, music, sports and computer interests and skills, paving the way forward towards their career pursuits. Students learn to take ownership of events that make them feel like experts. In the end, kids walk out knowing there are a lot more possibilities than they knew about before.
“What makes our schools different is their core philosophy of imparting quality education using references from Quran and Hadith. For example when we teach the young students the water cycle of rain in foundation years, we always relate it to the statements of Quran. When we talk about family and respecting the elders, we draw examples from hadith and rich social/moral codes of Islam. This is where we stand out.”
Mental health is the most important aspect on campus. School day always begins with the morning assemblies and routine presentations conducted all by students themselves which gives the confidence and makes them good orators. Physical exercise, martial arts training, and other outdoor activities lead to physical and mental health. At PES, these are imperative in building healthy individuals, who can make significant contributions in nation building. Incorporating teachings of Allama Iqbal’s perspective of progressive Muslim society into the curriculum – his views on life, science, humanity, religion, and patriotism takes learning to a whole new level.
Muhammad Amir, revealed it was his son’s very first day at school. The 40 year-old father had held the four-year olds hand as far as the classroom door before he said goodbye to him. “And he’s off. My boy is growing up,” he said with a whole host of emotions, as the father watched his son walk through the classroom aisle. More than anything, the proud parent, like many others, is confident and supports the new school’s unique education philosophy – to accomplish absolute excellence in classic ways of academics, sports and arts – to focus on the young person’s personality in a wholesome manner. At PES, everything ordinary becomes special.
That is how the founder of the school, Begum Tazeen Mujahid, had dreamt it. “There isn’t a more important job than teaching and grooming our children. Education cannot be about creating somebody to fit into a pre-organized position. In formative years, children are taught to read and do mathematics. That is not what these classes are for, only. It is our responsibility to give children that opportunity to think flexibly so that they can adapt to the world as it changes. And that’s what we do,” said founder of PAFWA Educational System Primary School, Begum Tazeen Mujahid.
At PES, it is never boring and never ordinary. Here children play important roles. They make their little dreams come true. Here, they surpass their own expectations and that of their parents. PES, shows what it is like to go to a very distinct school.
While students from all provinces are represented in PES, each campus follows the same standard curriculum. This allows students learning in Lahore or Karachi, to easily transfer to Quetta or Peshawar and continue with their education, when their parents are posted out. Students wear the same uniform, thus there is no competition over clothing brands or shoes. Some of the best responses have come from the least expected and small cities. In PAF hometowns like Kohat and Samungli, parents see a change in their children, where curiosity for the academics is not squashed, where they see that a school is not just raising test takers.
All of this was probably not possible without Begum Tazeen Mujahid’s team, who lent their philanthropic hands, moved heaven and earth, to leave their mark on an inspired system of learning that would help children achieve their potential.
The new school that allows children to learn, grow, interact, and build confidence, is still evolving, though. We all know what schools were like but this one stands out, where children can hardly wait for classes to begin. Parents know that PES is laying a solid foundation. They also know that their children are not customers here. All of those things go together with this idea of excellence and that combination of things is working really well right now. This sort of preparation for the future is not an alternative, it is imperative.