(Updated: 23 October 06)
School: Al Qasim Institute,
strong>Organization: Social Welfare Council for Mentally Retarded
Location : Islampura, Jhelum
Date: 27th October 2005
Mr. Younas Aktar
Founders: Philanthropists based in
No. of students:
Recommended by SPO
“I can I will” is the saying of the Al Qasim
Institute for Mentally Retarded Children in Jhelum . When I initially approached
SPO in August about recommending
institutions in Pakistan , I had no idea of the caliber of the organizations I
would be visiting. Each one in its own right is a true example of Education for
All. However, none have affected me so far as much as this one.
The Al Qasim Institute aims to make each child admitted self-dependant in
adult life by exploring the full capabilities of each. The institute was
established in 1984 and presently has over one hundred students. No fees are
charged. The establishment is now extending their amazing work to all the remote
areas of the district and is seeking financial help to achieve this .
We ‘toured’ the school before the event began. In co-ordination with the
District Government in Jhelum , Al Qasim had arranged different schools, NGOs,
philanthropists and officials to be present at the event. Banners adorned the
walls and all the assembled kids were really excited. We began the program with
a tour of the school classrooms and workshops. Aside from general elementary
education, Al Qasim provides training to each child in many fields of including;
candle making, woodwork, embroidery, cane work etc. The idea is to explore the
full capabilities of each student to encourage self-sufficiency in the outside
world and they really do. The institute wants to show the value of the child to
the parents to prove that even mentally retarded children have a role to play in
life. I n one class I walked into the students hardly even looked up. I greeted
them in Urdu and asked how they were but still no response. Only head down and
saw saw saw at pieces of wood. The teacher immediately interceded at my
confusion and told me that the students couldn’t reply but that they were trying
to show me how hard they could work and what they could achieve. It is the
beauty of this institute that gives these students the incentive to do so.
Outside the school they would most likely have become beggars and achieved
nothing in their short lives.
I saw the ’show room’ developed to generate income from the students efforts.
I saw the students working pouring moulds and painting the outcome. Each child
was happy and most of all proud of what they were doing. Many were deaf and dumb
but they could surely understand. The institute tries to maximize this by
providing all facilities free to the students as well as rehabilitation and
“to educate to some extent the special
children so that they can face the facts of their hard life ”
Mr. Younas Akhtar, CEO Al-Qasim Institute
It takes a different kind of person to commit to such a project, especially
over such a long time in Pakistan . Mentally Retarded children require different
needs than ordinary children. What I respected the most here was the belief of
the staff in the children and the real progress made towards rehabilitation and
imparting life skills to the students.
The programme gave various speeches by local philanthropists and members of
the school but for me the most moving aspect was the jungle co-ordination
programme run by the school. Almost 20 students took part. The tape began. The
‘trees’ stood their ground, then in swayed the elephant in a grey suit and long
trunk. Then in hopped the frogs, monkey.. and then it all stopped. Why? Because
as ever often in Pakistan the power had and the children could not co-ordinate
without the music. Even the best students have severe learning and memory
disabilities and today many were taking part in a good twenty minute activity.
.Then the cat started chasing the mouse, a tiger came and all the animals fled
the jungle until the hunter came and shot him.
When I left the school all the students with their usual manic grins
continued to jump on me asking for the leaflets I was giving out. Before I met
the school I’d often not thought much about the abilities of mentally challenged
children. These kids want to exceed themselves like everyone else. They have a
mind and basically it’s Al Qasim who show them how to use it. These students
were all too lucky. They might never be a neuro surgeon or a pilot but they
certainly try because like everybody else we can all dream.
What value does a child have in Pakistan if he is unable even to feed
himself ? Most will end up begging and some maybe lucky enough to
attend the Al Qasim Institute. This is the work of the Al Qasim Institute.
Assess it, Judge it, and act upon it.
NEEDS : The institute has recently
opened up a second school and is now extending its services to the far flung
areas of the Punjab. They need donations for a Suzuki van to educate the parents
and communities of mentally handicapped children on how to get the best out of