Mohammed Ayub, a firefighter in Pakistan, is saving children’s lives in a unique way.
When not fighting fires, Ayub, 58, teaches roughly 200 students how to read and write at a park in the capital city of Islamabad.
He has been doing this for more than 30 years, according to Al Jazeera.
“I see children wandering the streets of Islamabad and think to myself how different their lives could be if they too could acquire an education,” Ayub said to Pakistan’s The Express Tribune.
Ayub’s goal is to get children to pass the government accredited exams and give them a chance to get into great professions.
Starting from 3 p.m., he teaches them in subjects such as English, Math, Urdu, History, and Social Studies, according to the Tribune—the same kinds of subjects that are being taught at formal schools.
Only 50 percent of girls and 60 percent of boys are enrolled in primary school in Pakistan, according to Unicef. Two-thirds of girls and almost half of boys—of those enrolled—do not complete their schooling.
The reasons are many: Shortage of nearby schools, teacher shortages and absenteeism, poor teaching quality, a poor school environment, family poverty, insecurity, and natural disasters, to name just a few.
But in Ayub’s case, students practically drowning in poverty make up most of his class.
“We’re the children of poor parents,” one student said in the video.
“Without an education we’ll wander the streets clearing rubbish. It’s not our destiny to clear rubbish. We also want to be somebody.”
Ayub, too, knows how it feels to live in poverty.
“My father died when I was still a young man. I was left responsible for my five brothers and three sisters. I would teach them, and also work hard selling newspapers, making bags, to earn a living for us all,” he told Al Jazeera.
An estimated 3.6 million children under the age of 14 work in Pakistan.
But Ayub’s informal institution in the park does not stop there. He and the students collect rocks and materials every day to keep for future use:
“God willing, within a few years, we’ll build a big school,” he said.