The road less travelled: From Ismail Goth to Harvard

Fatima attributes her unusual success to -'The Citizens’ Foundation and said that her life changed when she enrolled in their school. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Fatima attributes her unusual success to -‘The Citizens’ Foundation and said that her life changed when she enrolled in their school. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI (PAKISTAN): “If someone had told me ten years ago, that one day I will be going to Harvard, I would have asked them what Harvard was,” stated 23-year old Anum Fatima in a gentle but poised tone.

Seated amidst endless volumes of books in the library at The Citizens Foundation, a place she calls “her second home”, the young achiever described her current state of mind as that of ‘nervous excitement’.

Hailing from Ismail Goth, a slum near Steel Town, Fatima is currently enrolled in the MBA programme at Institute of Business Management, Karachi and will be attending the summer school at Harvard University at the end of June. The three-month programme, an initiative by the US-Pakistan Women Council will allow her to attend classes at Harvard University and also provide her with internship opportunities.

Fatima stated that her main motivation to apply for the programme was the opportunity to go abroad.

“I had read case studies from Harvard during my college years, but did not realize what a privilege it was to get admitted there until I saw everyone around me reeling with excitement,” she said.

She admitted with a chuckle that even her father, a driver at a private company, did not realise the extent of her achievement until his company owners told him that his daughter was going to attend the same college as Benazir Bhutto.

Fatima attributes her unusual success to The Citizens Foundation and said that her life changed when she enrolled in their school in the ninth grade. Due to limited resources, it would have been impossible for her father to finance the education for Fatima and her four siblings, despite his willingness to see a better future for his children.

However, she emphasised that TCF had not only assisted her academically and financially but also provided a complete support system, extending counseling to parents and providing guidance through personal crises as well.

“Belonging to a family where I am the first girl to complete matriculation, my interaction with TCF alumni and teachers was the first insight into the world of educated people. I immediately knew that I wanted to be like them,” she said.

But the journey was not an easy one. From issues such as finding transport to go to school to adjusting to an English medium curriculum at university, there were several ups-and-downs but Fatima remained undeterred.

Currently, Fatima is gearing up to represent Pakistan and TCF at Harvard, but in the long run she aspires to be a CEO at a multi-national organisation. But before she does that she wants to give back by becoming more involved with TCF in its educational initiatives. It is her way of saying thank you to the organisation that gave her the strength to dream..

Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2013.

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