Gulalai Ahmadzai, just short of her 10th birthday and traveling a long distance in a convoy from South Waziristan near the Afghan border to Gadap near the Arabian Sea in the city of Karachi, looks bewildered. Her family migrated in haste traveling from north to south Pakistan, fleeing protracted violence borne out of the ‘war against terror’. In Gadap, the language is different as are the customs. Filled with worries and anxieties, Gulalai is wondering what the future holds. Will she be able to resume her studies? Will she be relegated as a refugee and, in turn, excluded from school and join the ranks of some 61 million out-of-school children worldwide? Or will child marriage await her?
In fact, Gulalai is one of the lucky ones as a new government school is under construction nearby her new home. Here she can enroll at a school that will provide 12 years of education. But will there be a teacher who can speak to her in her mother tongue? She wonders about her communication challenges not knowing Urdu or Sindhi; her forehead breaks into anxious lines only to be quickly replaced by a smile as she realizes her learning will go uninterrupted.
About 400 kilometers away, in Northern Sindh, lives Shama. She is 12 years old and a 6th grade drop-out. Due to the lack of an all-girls school in her area, she was forced stay at home performing household chores and spending her rare spare time making intricate embroideries and ‘rilli’ (patchwork) spreads. However, thanks to local community activists, she, along with her mother has been attending a course organized through a partnership between INTEL, USAID, and Education and Literacy Department of Sindh that offers 30 hours of free ICTs training to in-school children and out-of-school adolescents and adults, especially girls and women. This program will reach 9,000 beneficiaries. Unbelievably, the mother-daughter duo can access the internet, create an email, search designs for their embroideries and Shama has also completed a PowerPoint presentation!