Turkish teacher Doğan Yücel wrote about the scholarship exams they held while he and his colleagues were working in Lahore in 2005 and the conditions under which the first student hostel was opened.
At the beginning of 2005, if I remember correctly, we sacrificed and distributed the meat of about 110 qurbanis in Islampura. At the beginning of the same year, we went to Khairpur Mirs for a reading and academic retreat program. I was single then. After an 11-hour journey, we reached Khairpur Mirs. Since it is especially foggy across Punjab in winter, people normally do not drive at night. However, the driver of the minibus we had rented was very brave; he continued driving even though we were almost in a cloud of smoke. We travelled for 11 hours with us having our hearts in our mouths. No one could sleep properly.
Around February or March 2005, someone came to the school and said, “I am to be appointed as the Commercial Attaché at the Pakistan Consulate in Istanbul. I need to learn Turkish.” I taught him Turkish one-on-one for three months after school. However, a week before he was to leave for Istanbul in the summer, he was appointed to a Pakistani foreign mission in another country. 😊
We found the hostel building the day before the school opened
We were testing students who could not speak English and sometimes even not fluent in Urdu. The tests generally consisted of aptitude or intelligence questions with shapes and pictures. Meanwhile, we had no hostel to accommodate the students we were planning to grant scholarships according to their test results. Immediately, we started looking for a hostel building and we visited about 30 buildings in the neighbourhoods close to the school. We got information and rents demanded from the real estate agents we knew. At that time, we met Mr. Mudassir, with whom we would become family friends shortly later. He was an overseas education consultant and his office was in the Firdous Market.
When we could not find a hostel building near the school, we paid a deposit for a building that used to be a hotel in Makkah Colony, close to the house we lived as bachelors. We signed a contract to use the building as a hostel in the next academic year starting in April. However, on March 31, we received very good news. We learned that the bungalow just behind our school; that is, the bungalow which shared a boundary wall with us, was vacant. The owner said we could rent it right away. When we agreed on the amount of rent, we immediately took over the bungalow. In just one day, we demolished the two-meter-thick brick wall and combined the hostel and the school in the same compound.
Three thousand dollars was needed; one thousand dollars arrived!
This new bungalow was more beautiful than our existing school building. We moved some offices like the computer lab, teachers’ room, hostel manager’s room and the principal’s office to the lower floor of this beautiful building. We allotted the upper floor for the hostel use. I was the first hostel manager. We had to make preparations for the boarding students. The bunk beds arrived from Islamabad. Together with a Turkish restaurateur from Kabul, we commissioned the steel meal trays to be used for breakfast and other meals. Meanwhile, we also needed mattresses, sheets and duvet covers for the bunk beds. I prepared an expense list equal to three thousand dollars for such needs and sent it to the head office in Islamabad. The head office sent us an amount equal to one thousand dollars in the first place. The academic year had started and schools were opened, but the preparations in the hostel was not completed due to time constraints and financial difficulties.
We used the money I had saved for the wedding
We could not receive the boarding students, because we had postponed the opening of the hostel for two weeks. Even during that time, we could not fully complete the missing parts. The parents kept on asking, “You promised us, when will you receive our children?” We vacated the house we stayed as bachelors in Makkah Colony and brought everything – pillows, duvet covers, sheets, mattresses, bunk beds, and many more – to the hostel. For a week, the boarding students slept on the mattresses we had brought from home. The weather was already hot. Students were staying in three rooms. We covered the terrace with sheet metal and repurposed it into a dining hall. We commissioned a Pakistani carpenter friend who spoke Turkish to do the cabinet works. Two of our student friends with whom we had stayed at home became mentors in the hostel. For some needs, I had to use some of the money I had saved for my wedding in the summer. After the summer, when I wrote an application to the head office, they paid me that amount. In that way, we opened our first hostel in Lahore.
I understand everyone and everyone understands me!
In the first phase, we had about 25 students. We started to serve three meals a day for the boarding students. In addition, we started to cook the teachers’ lunches in the hostel. As the cook, we hired someone who lived just a few blocks away and was a friend of an acquaintance.
Two months later, the summer vacation arrived and we went to Turkey. After we landed at the Istanbul Airport, the reaction of my math teacher friend sitting next to me was: “I understand everyone around me, and everyone around me understands what I’m talking about!”
In the first year, I started to go to Mr. Mudassir’s office. We used to sit and chat and I used to practice both English and Urdu there. I also had a married friend who was an English teacher. Mr. Mudassir’s house was about 500 meters from his house. My friend sometimes invited Mr. Mudassir to his home.
To be continued…