Shahid Afridi says he has invested totally in girls’ education

LAHORE: Green Crescent Trust (GCT) and Shahid Afridi Foundation (SAF) held a star-studded party at a hotel here last night to raise funds for school openings and they were very successful.

Together they run 155 schools across the country and aim to open another 100 schools. They currently educate 29,000 children and aim to increase the number of students to 100,000.

Shahid Afridi, who joined GCT five years ago in its effort to educate children, said he was totally invested in girls’ education. He has five daughters and believes raising a girl means raising a family. “We are introducing computer labs in schools and focusing on education and skills. Recently, we gave 22 scholarships to children in our schools,” he said. SAF deals with the provision of education and water in the outskirts of the main towns where most of the marginalized communities reside. SAF puts the cost per student at Rs30,000 per year.

Anwar Maqsood and Adnan Siddiqi of showbiz, cricket star Shahid Afridi and Ahmad Shahzad, squash star Jahangir Khan, hockey star Shahbaz Senior, Naveed Khan, young squash star, Dr Amjad Saqib of Akhuwat, the CEO of Zahid Saeed GCT and dozens of corporate CEOs graced the event.

Anwar Maqsood said that Zahid Saeed, Shahid Afridi, Shahbaz Senior and Adnan Siddiqui are worth more than Pakistan’s budget. He entertained the audience with his subtle humor. “Cricketers would pray they weren’t called upon to speak English. When Shahid Afridi observed that his cricket mates were speaking English, he decided to educate the masses,” he said, prompting laughter from the audience. He read a letter from Allama Iqbal that he would have written had he been alive. “’What have we done in Pakistan in 75 years?’ and ‘All problems can be solved through dialogue’”, he asked. In his letter, Iqbal said he wanted to see all the children enter the doors of the school and thanked Zahid Saeed and Shahid Afridi for raising the children.

Maqsood remembers how many years ago a little boy came up to him at an event and asked if he could have a picture with him. This boy was Shahid Afridi. “Today I want to have a photo with Afridi,” he said.

A center for the promotion of maternal and child health, managed by SAF in Malikpur Lahore, has 4,532 beneficiaries. Another hospital, Sahibzada Fazal Rehman Hospital is in Tangi Banda, Kohat. Zahid Saeed, CEO GCT started working on the schools in 1994. They were five friends who all came from business families. They aimed to open schools where there were none. It took Rs45 lakh to open a school back then. “We would rent a building, renovate it, find teachers and open a school with 200 children. We spend Rs1150 per child. The government spends Rs2500 per child. We want sponsorship for 10,000 students today,” Saeed said, adding, “By 2025, we want to educate 100,000 children and run 250 schools.”

In the end, TV and movie star Adnan Siddiqui took charge of the show, calling on people to get involved in the good cause. Businessmen contributed generously to the cause and star players signed sticks, balls, racquets and hockey for which auctions were conducted and they collected a good amount of donations.

The program opened with Qirat, Naat, and then a speech by students from these schools. The national anthem was also sung by the children. There was a group dance of the children from the GCT-SAF school in Thar. They wore ethnic dresses. The song was Thari and the dance too was Thari. The Lahore business family has built a school in Mithi, Zahid Saeed told the audience.

Alumni of GCT schools shared their successes. One of them from Naushahro Feroze district is a graduate in computer science and is a visiting faculty of FAST University Karachi. Another was an IBA graduate and worked with Shahid Afridi.

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