GILGIT: Accepting the death of a person who has dedicated his or her existence to serving humanity is never easy for those whose lives they touched. An air of gloom surrounded Sadpara village in Gilgit-Baltistan when people learnt of Bushra Farooqi’s death.
Farooqi was a 42-year-old British-Pakistani banker who ran two primary schools in the region. The education activist died while trekking in Wadi Sameeni in Oman in the last week of August, 2015. Eleven people were with her on the trek that day; all were rescued by Omani authorities except Farooqi as she was missing. Her body was found the next day.
“I can’t believe she is no more,” said Hasan Sadpara, a renowned mountaineer from Skardu, who was working with Farooqi to start a mountaineering school in the region. “My heart weeps and is unable to accept this harsh reality. The school she started was for children; especially the girls in the area. Both the girls and their parents feel broken.”
“She was like a sister to us; as a human being, she was second to none,” added Hasan. With Farooqi’s death, students in Sadpara are left to wonder what will become of their education. “We don’t know what is in store for us, only God knows it,” said Khadim Hussain, a relative of a teacher who works at one of the schools being run by Inspire.
However, Hasan told The Express Tribune there are people in Farooqi’s family who are committed to continue her mission. “After her death, I got a call from one of Farooqi’s sisters. She promised an even better quality education for the children of the deceased’s schools.”
Farooqi started an NGO called Inspire in 2010 under which she ran two primary schools for children in Sadpara village. The schools provide free-of-cost education to these children.
The initiative came three years after she visited Baltistan for the first time with a group of trekkers from the UK for a charity trek to K2 base camp.
“From then on, I continued to visit the area for various trekking expeditions, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I decided to give back to the hospitable community by supporting girls education in Basha Valley, a very remote part of the region,” she said during an interview with The Express Tribune in June – months before her tragic death.
In 2011, 60 girls received primary education at the only boys school in the area. The initiative was funded by Farooqi and two other expats from the UK. The number of students soon grew to 360 girls within a span of three years.
Farooqi’s motivation behind running a primary school in this mountainous region was her love for mountains, and her passion for trekking and education. As a result of the initiative’s growing success, it was given a formal structure and was registered as a charitable organisation in 2014, supporting primary education in Sadpara.
Currently, 180 children, both girls and boys between the ages of four and 14 years, are enrolled at the two schools that have been taken over by Inspire. They are being taught English, Urdu, Islamiat, Mathematics, Social Studies and General Knowledge. The ratio of female to male students is 1:1. With the help of these schools, Inspire is catering to at least 70% of Sadpara village’s primary school-going children. -- The Express Tribune