Some things are the same the world over. Education is one of them.
So when I enter the Richard Stockton College campus, I feel as I did at college back home in Pakistan. A similar energy radiates from students cramming for assignments, setting up stalls reflecting their interests to recruit newcomers and rushing around with the enthusiasm of the early days of a new year.
And walking down the halls amidst the confusion, you once again feel the way you did at college — as if the world were open to you and everything was possible. And despite the gruel of the tests and competition for grades you went through then, a part of you wouldn't mind going back.
Being at that point in life again.
In a very integral way, that is what education is about - possibilities. It has the ability to hone what you already are and transport you to your wildest dreams.
I recently read a heartening story on The Express Tribune, the Pakistani national daily I work for, about a student from a small town in Balochistan, one of the country's more neglected provinces and one which is most deprived in terms of education, who made it all the way to Harvard. And this in a country of 180 million where, to provide some context, around seven million children who should be in primary school aren’t and, according to a report, three million of them will never see the inside of a school.
The student now plans to return home and work for his community.
Along the way to obtaining his education, the student’s intellect and determination were aided by scholarships, reminding us once again of the importance of donating to and investing in education.
It is not just people from developing countries who benefit from financial aid. From conversations with some of the people I have met in the states I find that locals here too find higher education exorbitantly expensive. There are those who willingly saddle themselves with student loans for years for the sake of a good education, and others who work their way through college, investing their youth in obtaining degrees.
Many fear that it will just get worse for their children. In terms of literacy and education, Pakistan is admittedly way behind.
With a worsening economic condition and misplaced priorities (with, according to a report, under 1.5 per cent of the GDP going to public schools) many fear it will continue to be out of reach. And for most children belonging to the lower classes, it is a distant dream.
But there are many who think of it as a way toward progress and betterment, both personal and social. I recently read of a young man from a remote village back home who, though having studied only to tenth grade, opened a small school in his village, the only school there, and in the seventeen years since had educated more than a 1,000 children to the best of his ability.
And it is such spirit and commitment that makes me think that there is hope yet.