LAHORE: Life is a tough battle but for street children it is even worse. Soon things are about to change in the Valley of Swat.

A group of students Shan Elahi, Farooq Khan, Mansoor Ahmed, Waqas Habib, Safdar Khan and Jibran in NaweKile, Mingora have taken up the initiative of helping such children in their area. They aim at getting these kids get admission in private schools and bearing their expenditure. The students have opened up The Shadow grooming school for underprivileged children too.

Shan Elahi is a terrorism survivor of Mingora; his father was part of the Amman committee when the Taliban killed him in 2014. He is studying in Islamabad. He used to visit madrassas in Mingora to educate the children on human rights, equality and religious tolerance. Around 100 students were given awareness on these topics.

In 2015 he came across a street child, took him to a private school and got him admission there. The Principal was very helpful and appreciated the act. Soon he started a campaign to educate street children.

Schools were approached for such children and many schools readily gave quota seats for them. Muslim Public School in Mingora fixed 10 seats for the children. Then there was so stopping, today they have 120 children enrolled in 11 schools of NaweKile.

Farooq Khan speaking to The Nation said this was Shan Elahi’s initiative and it had been very fruitful. “Today we have about 120 to 130 children in schools. We make sure of getting all the security checks done before we take them in the project. Their lives have changed drastically. All of them come from poor backgrounds. Many of them had ill fathers who were at home and mothers had to work in people’s homes to make both ends meet.

“The children have given a positive response and exceptional results after joining schools. Many of them wish to join the Pakistan Army so they could fight against the Taliban, while the girls want to become teachers. There are about 80 boys and 40 girls who have got admission in private schools. These kids have participated in arts competitions too and stood first in them,” Farooq said.

On a query whether any girls parents had refused to send them to school, Farooq said there was a family with two sons and a daughter who were not willing to send the daughter. “They had agreed to send the boys to private schools. Shan then had long discussions with them for days and in the end convinced them,” he said.

Shan and his friends run The Shadow grooming school for boys and girls in the evening. They teach manners and behaviour discipline, enhance their learning skills, lectures on humanity, religious harmony and equality. “It was important to do so because one of the students was caught calling out children kafir and improper names. We have suffered for ages due to this hatred but now we have to stop it by educating our new generation about religious harmony and equality.”

Khalid Khan, father of Aroosa and Zahir, told The Nation about his ill health and loss of eye sight. “I am very happy that my children are going to school. Considering my health and financial conditions I would never have been able to educate them,” he said.

All the expenditure is afforded by the group. Till now Rs 700,00 has been spent on this project. None of the parents had to pay anything. But for the grooming school they charge 100 rupees. It helps in getting things such as stationary, games, boards etc.

The group gets help from Malik Maria Awan, Naseem Ara (Coordinator CYAAD organisation, College of Youth Development) and from stationary shops that donate all the stationary. MPAs and Nazims of the area were approached for assistance too, but MPAs did not give an encouraging response and the Nazims did not have the funds to help.

Shan Elahi’s group plans to spread the project at national level once things are finalised and funds are available. Till then on can expect, Mingora would not have any street children around due to the efforts of Shan Elahi and his friends.