By Hassan Ghani
Pedalling through Islamabad’s leafy streets on his bicycle, Mohammed Ayub comes across as just another ordinary working class Pakistani. What he’s chosen to do with his life, however, is extraordinary.
Each day at 3pm, after finishing his day job, he arrives like clockwork at a public park in Islamabad’s F-6 sector, a couple of kilometres from Pakistan’s parliament building. Around 200 children from different backgrounds are lined up and waiting for him at the park, ready to learn. They know him as ‘Master Ayub’.
It all started 30 years ago, after he moved to Islamabad and secured a job with the fire brigade.
“My family were staying in the village and I was here in the city alone, so I wanted to do something in my spare time that would be of some use,” Ayub told Al Jazeera.
With that in mind, he asked a young boy washing cars why he wasn’t at school. The response was typical: “my parents are poor, so I work,” the boy had told him.
“I brought him a notebook, gave him a pencil and an eraser, and started teaching him there and then, sitting on the ground.” Master Ayub had found his calling.
The next day, the boy brought along his friend. The day after, a couple more came. Within a week, and with a bit of persuasion, there were fifty children coming to learn to read and write after they had finished their work each day.