City Landmarks – Street School of Bagri Katchi Abadi

Bagri is a nomadic community mostly present in Sindh. If you drive through national highway around harvest time you may find their mobile settlements around farms . Their ancestors roamed the vast stretches of subcontinent in search of livelihood, never settling at one place. There were other such communities in subcontinent too, in much larger numbers, who earned their living by selling goods from one area to another. With the advent of British Railways they lost their competitive edge and started settling in cities. Bagris have started settling too. They have a settlement in Azam Basti, a katchi abadi. This katchi abadi lacks all basic amenities that are taken for granted in 21st century. Except for a non formal school which is run by Initiators, an NGO based in Karachi. The school is run inside a temple since there is not a big enough space anywhere in the slum.

I find my way to the settlement through Korangi bypass. There is a straight road along an open sewerage naala which is littered with plastic bags. I see few children collecting water spilled by a tanker on the road. Water is a precious commodity in Karachi’s katchi abadis. I have only covered few hundred meters so far since turning from Imtiaz, one of the largest super-marts in Karachi.

Everyone in Katchi abadi knows about the school. It does not take me long to find it after entering the slum. This katchi abadi is much smaller than other katchi abadis in the city. I go through small streets with houses that are more of tents with occasional use of wood. I finally reach an open space and i see a wall constructed with bricks. This is the temple which is used as part time school. There is a wedding planned for the day and I see many children dressed already for the occasion. Temple has a platform on which I see sculptures of deities. The area below, much bigger in size is used for ceremonies and conducting classes by Anam and her team. They arrive moments later. Anam gets animated as she tries to discipline children. The children finally settle sitting in rows just below the platform. There are no chairs here. After few minutes the class starts.

This non formal school is one of many good things that Initiator Human Development has been doing across many katchi abadis in the city. The intent is to impart basics in these students before they are ready to enroll at a formal institute, public schools in this case.

I manage to have a quick conversation with Anam who has spent a lot of time with these students already. She tells me that the elders of the community have been encouraging and been willing to invest in their children future despite their meager resources. The temple used to be much smaller, she tells me. The elders realized the importance of sending their children to school and worked with them to increase sitting area. Most of these children help their elders in generating their livelihood. Most of the bagris of the slum sell balloons, toys and other low ticket items at traffic signals and other areas across the city.

There is so much that needs to be done in these slums. Anam and her team is doing is doing their bit with their limited resources. In this city one has to find hope, nurture it.

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Categories: City Landmarks

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