The stories to be told to our youth
In an environment of pervasive cynicism, it is imperative to search for examples to portray a positive image of the country both inside as well as outside. Such a quest is also crucial to motivate the youth about the future of their motherland. As a part of our national psyche we are prone to highlighting everything that is negative. We easily abandon efforts to look for examples that could enhance our image as a vibrant country. This is especially pertinent when one hears our youth saying, “What is for us in this country?” Thus, the need to identify some shining stars on the horizon.
First, here is the story of an entrepreneur and how he was able to create a successful venture despite adverse circumstances. I found the story to be personally inspirational. It exemplifies that even in the present pervasive cynicism it is possible to generate positive energy and a mindset which believes in the ‘can do’ rather than ‘can’t do’ approach to life.
Mr Baluch is an entrepreneur who after crossing many initial life hurdles graduated from National College of Arts. Talking about his success in building a successful entrepreneurial venture he stresses the importance of personal values as his life anchors. He is very passionate about what he does and is addicted to sustained hard work. For him teachers and parents were a great source of wisdom and one should never stop seeking inspiration from them.
Recounting some of his important life experiences he stated that “one day I was standing at a bus stop waiting for the bus to reach Lahore when an old man passed by me and asked why I was standing there.” When told that he was waiting for the bus, the old man replied that what if the bus didn’t come. Having said this, the old man moved on saying that in life it was better to keep moving rather than standing still without knowing the outcomes of waiting. This advice of the old man had a deep impact on Mr Baluch. And, since that day he has never stopped to wait for anything. These pearls of wisdom had made Mr Baluch proactive in tackling difficult situations. He stresses the value of positive thinking. He has learnt to engage himself in self-analysis periodically and uses the results for personal development. This approach had helped him to continue to grow both as human being as well as an entrepreneur.
In 1993 and then in 1994 he was hit by a personal tragedy. The retinas in his both eyes became detached and the doctor told him that his eyesight had deteriorated beyond repair. This was a low point in his life. This situation also resulted in declining business performance. Because of this low performance he also became under heavy loans. Given all these adverse conditions, he showed determination and resilience to move on in life. He possesses strong willpower and most of all his positive mindset didn’t allow him to sit idle and do nothing. While he recognises the importance of making compromises his learning from life experiences and personal debilitating conditions has taught him never to give up.
Mr Baluch to me as an entrepreneur is our shining star. I am sure there must be many like him but regrettably their stories are not highlighted for our youth to take them as their role models and emulate their examples for personal growth and to make Pakistan through sustained hard work a just and fair place in which rule of law and merit would run supreme without exception. Through such personal shining examples we can channelise the energies of our youth in productive ways so that they can excel in personal lives and also contribute to the overall development of the country.
The second story relates to a Foundation called Aman. Recently I visited Karachi, the city which was called the city of lights and pro-poor. Today the same city scares people from visiting it. The quality of life in the city leaves much to be desired. The perpetual conflicts among different power brokers has left Karachi without any owner who would worry about its development needs. Wherever one went one saw heaps of garbage lying in open spaces creating health hazards. Yet, in the same city there is an NGO which presents itself as a shining star for the work it is doing.
Aman Foundation can be a role model for how ‘best-in-class’ institutions can be built. You walk into the office of the Foundation and you are amazed to notice the level of cleanliness. I was trying to find a piece of litter but couldn’t find one. The mission of this Foundation involves work in these key areas: health, education and vocational training.
First things first: The quality of human resources engaged in the Foundation was world class. Young, bright, highly motivated with degrees from best academic institutions was the characteristics of people working in this organisation. Use of modern information technology was another plus point of the organisation. The young talented team was instantly ready to make professional presentation to the visitors.
While all the work that was being executed was worth replicating but here I want to focus on the quality of vocational training that was being provided to young people drawn from poor socio-economics backgrounds. The portfolio of training courses covered almost every important vocational area. The entry was based on open merit. Each course consists of about 12 months duration and both theoretical and practical knowledge in the best ecosystem was being offered. Language and soft skills for social development were given adequate weightage in each course.
Towards the end of the course each trainee was given a small sum of Rs2,000 to develop a product which could then become a business proposition. The final certification was based on an external assessment by the City Guild in England. About 30 per cent of the students from each graduating class get jobs in the UAE market. The quality of the programme, the stress on holistic development and physical sport activities are the hallmarks of Aman’s vocational training programs.
While leaving the Foundation premises I wondered if Aman Foundation could create a gold standard organization — why its model couldn’t be replicated to develop world class institutions in Pakistan. For sure the Foundation’s vocational training programme is worth emulating for developing skills which were not only demanded in the local market but were also required in the external labour markets.
What are the takeaways from these two shining stories?
First, can our policy makers create an environment for entrepreneurship development rather than developing only job seekers? Our education institutions, whether general or technical, must promote in their curricula entrepreneurship development. In that regard Mr Baluch’s story and the importance of personal values to succeed in the face of personal tragedies can be a shining example worth emulating. Secondly, what does it take to build a world class institution in our institutional landscape? The message from Aman Foundation is that it is a mindset that can help build world class institutions. The key, however, is the quality of human resources rather than the physical infrastructure that create world class institutions. The one principle that can attract talented human resources in building great institutions is the application of rule of law and merit without exception. I hope our leaders and policy makers will pay heed to this.