It’s another day at the Qurtuba Government School in Shireen Jinnah, Karachi. The dilapidated walls are covered in brightly coloured paint. Small children sit at their desks, enthusiastically calling out answers as their teacher writes questions on the blackboard. The stone floors are dusty and there is no electricity. It’s chaotic and noisy, but the spirit is unmistakable – the children are eager to learn.
Excitedly gripping their SABAQ tablets, the children scroll through pictures and stories and musicals, eyes lit up. It’s unlike any textbook they’ve seen before, and it’s helping them to love their lessons.
Overseeing the classroom, where we monitor the use of SABAQ tablets, I watch a group of girls laugh in delight over a story they are listening to on the tablet. A few feet away, a boy frowns in concentration as he arranges numbers in ascending order in an interactive game.
As IT-blended learning takes over the world, SABAQ makes its own contribution in Pakistan. An ed-tech startup, SABAQ writes, produces and deploys educational content on Android tablets. Targeting underprivileged children in and out of school, SABAQ has placed more than 150 animated lessons in the hands of children. And more lessons are to come. So far we have developed maths and Urdu content, with science, Sindhi and English materials in production.
Reliability and accessibility are very important to the SABAQ team. We’ve made sure that our learning materials are not just of the highest pedagogical quality but are also relevant to the local context. SABAQ’s content uses scenes and references that any Pakistani child can relate to; there are characters who are halwa-makers, characters in headscarves, stories that reinterpret classic figures like Tot Batot and Sheikh Chilli. All of this material is original and in Urdu, and is meant to engage children with their studies as much as possible.
It seems to be working. Whenever I show up with a pile of tablets, I am greeted with joyous shouts and crowded by children clamouring for a tablet. Once they settle down, children from neighbouring classes peer in and ask, “Can you bring these to our classrooms too?”
I tell them that we’ll get to them soon. And we will. SABAQ wants to reach as many children as possible. Our very aim is to bring accessible, high quality and relatable education to underprivileged children.
Not content with simply writing and producing the lessons, SABAQ’s team also has an implementation arm that partners with large NGOs to distribute SABAQ tablets in underserved areas. We hope to extend our reach across the nation so that no child is left behind or falls through the cracks of Pakistan’s education system.
SABAQ currently operates within 100 classrooms across Karachi, Lahore and Mirpur Khas.