My sabbatical: Educating one village at a time

Amir Davis
Chairman APS

I completed all my packing a couple of weeks before the much awaited date, 1st Mar 2013 when I was heading to Pakistan for my 6 week sabbatical. I had a lot of excitement built up to enjoy some sunny weather there, but all my Pakistani relatives were curious on the "weather factor". Of course the lovely sun in March is taken for granted there. (Wish they'd witnessed the Irish Easter snow :)).

We take a lot of things in life for granted unless their absence affects us.

Education is the one prime human right which is out of reach for tens of millions of children in the world. About 10% of the world's primary school-age children who do not attend school are living in Pakistan. In the global ranking of out-of-school children, Pakistan is in second place. There is a striking gender disparity in schooling in Pakistan. The figure is worst in rural areas, where just 33% of women have ever attended school.

My village in Pakistan is not a lot different, where the majority of underprivileged people do not enrol their children in schools, for reasons such as economic constraints and lack of education awareness. Women's education is considered a waste!

When I launched the educational project, 'Amir Public School' ( in my village 5 years back, I always believed that our small but continued efforts would be fruitful, but never thought we would be growing so quickly. Here is a quick summary of my 6 weeks while working closely with the students, staff, local parents and educationists.

  • The middle school launch is done successfully, and school numbers are gone to 260 now. We hired 3 new teachers bringing the total School staff to 12.
  • I met with parents and had 1:1s to understand the educational related issues/concerns of local residents, which are being addressed. I raised educational awareness with the parents, especially for girls and I am delighted to share that our current female student ratio has crossed 50% mark now.
  • We got school staff trained on computers and on E-learning, which was definitely challenging due to the unscheduled heavy electric power cuts (My 2.5 years old Irish born daughter eventually stopped shouting "Happy Birthday' every night when we lit candles!), but we all got over it when the staff submitted their final assignments such as their CVs (MS Word skill), student mark sheets with % formulas (MS Excel) and by emailing me their lesson planning using online resources. I also involved Intel Education Foundation Pakistan who visited APS and had very enjoyable sessions on "Educational transformation through Technology" with school staff and children.
  • We gave financial relief to the parents again this year, by sponsoring the uniforms and books for their children. Our annual target was met successfully again when I targeted to raise 1400 euros, but managed to gather 1600 instead, in just a couple of days! My Automation colleagues also took a stand in Intel's canteens during Q1 Intel charity day for the fund raising purpose.
  • Construction for 3 new rooms is almost completed by now. We also had an opening ceremony for the middle school extension where students performed on the theme of "Importance of girl's education". This new section will have the capacity to accommodate 90 more girls within the premises.

While this project has a deep impact on local residents and is changing hundreds of lives, I never dreamt of getting the huge recognitions in the form of winning "Intel Global Hero Award", receiving "Volunteer of Ireland International Development Award", a gold Medal and the "Azme Alishan" award from Pakistan where I got opportunities to meet Irish and Pakistani presidents. This also brought me closer to a young but very inspirational educationist, 14 years old girl Malala, whom I met in 2012 in Pakistan and had some motivational conversations over girls' education. I take a lot of pride to see her on the title page of Time Magazine's recent edition.

My near future plans are to build a Computer Lab/Science Lab and further expansion to the high school.

I also want to get these girls some exposure to the outside world through students exchange programmes, so that they can recognize the potential they have. Also, in the long term, I hope to open up more schools in Pakistani rural areas.

A lot has been done and there is still a lot to do, but all of this would not have been possible without the generous Intel culture and values. I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU to all my Intel colleagues who believed in me and always stepped up to support APS!

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