Not content with only saving people from burning buildings, this Pakistani firefighter has also spent decades saving children from illiteracy–and entrenched poverty–by teaching thousands to read, write, and do math.
Every workday for 30 years, Mohammed Ayub has left his job at an Islamabad fire department and set up a makeshift classroom in a city park.
And every day, hundreds of kids wait for “Master Ayub” to arrive on his bicycle so they can learn.
It started when he first moved to the area and was looking for a hobby. He noticed a little boy washing cars and asked him why he wasn’t in school. When the boy explained his parents couldn’t afford to send him, and he needed to help earn money for the family, Ayub found his calling.
He began teaching the boy, who brought along a friend the next day. By the end of that first week, Ayub was teaching 50 kids in the park.
Over the years, former students have become teachers at the informal, outdoor school.
Thousands of Christian and Muslim kids from the surrounding slums – who had bleak futures before Ayub’s school – have gone on to higher education, vocational training, or landed decent jobs because of it.
“If we want Pakistan to prosper,” Ayub told Al Jazeera, “teach one word to a child every day. Your sisters, your brothers, wherever the illiterate are, help them".
Ayub is nearing retirement from the fire department and planning to make the school his full time job. He wants to build a real school building stocked with computers and books.
And just like the little boy who rounded up 50 more kids in that first week, the students today are rounding up bricks and stones — piling them beside the park each day before class, to use for Master Ayub’s new school.