In this part of the article series, educationist Taner Koçyiğit wrote about the activities he and his colleagues undertook as part of their public relations tasks while continuing to teach in Lahore, the developing relations with businessmen and tradesmen, and how they were involved in education services.
Construction of the main campus of our school in Lahore started towards the end of 2006. When we opened the doors of the new school for education in 2007, a considerable part of the building was yet to be completed. As constructing the school continued, new needs emerged every day. The financial resources allocated to meet those were not sufficient. School plot had been purchased and so the construction began, but more resources were needed to complete the campus. The basements and the top roof of the two blocks of the school were removed from the project. In addition, the foundation of the planned dormitory building had not been laid yet. Boarding students stayed on one floor of the school, which was organized as a makeshift dormitory.
While constructing this campus, which would be our first grand education centre in Lahore, continued with financial difficulties, the search for new resources had begun for completing the project. One of the most ideal ways considered at the time was to appeal to the parents and the philanthropic businesspeople from Pakistan. This difficult task was to be undertaken by three people in the public relations unit, myself included, who were in closer contact with parents and businessmen than our fellow teachers. But how? What kind of work did we need to do to meet so many needs? Who should we visit? Let’s say we visited them, what would we say to them and how would we ask about it? We didn’t know the answer to these questions. All we knew was that we needed the support of the altruistic Pakistani people to complete the campus.
Breakfast meetings and meeting the needs of the school
We had good relations with many of our parents and businessmen, but none of us had made any financial demands from them before. Without thinking further ‘What would they say?’, we uttered ‘Bismillah’ and took action. First, we appealed for the kitchen needs of the makeshift dormitory on one floor of the school. In terms of public relations, as three friends and Mr. Turgut met in turns at our homes for breakfast to discuss the issue. We had long consultations and plans on issues like to which altruistic person we should appeal, from whom we should request basic foodstuffs such as flour, eggs, bread, oil, and sugar, to what we should we pay attention to while expressing ourselves, and so on. Meanwhile, after breakfasts, we used to go to school and took our weekly classes. After classes, we used to visit parents and businessmen as planned in the breakfast meetings. We used to attend the funeral and wedding functions of these altruistic people. A few days a week, we would come home at midnight and take our classes again in the morning.
We were knocking on the doors of every businessman or trader so the students, the future of their country, would grow comfortably and be educated better; we did not solicit even a penny for personal benefit. This was why, although we had a little difficulty at first, we had a clean conscience about our volunteerism. As the days passed, we discussed in our morning meetings the heroism of the self-sacrificing and generous benefactors we had visited and how they had not turned us back empty-handed. This encouraged us more and we thought ways to access more charitable souls. The Muslim Pakistani people are very sensitive about giving their zakat; so, we used to discuss whether we could consider this for the welfare of our boarding students.
Everyone I knew in Pakistan was very generous
The parents of our school frequently expressed their admiration for our education system, which effectively taught common school subjects supplemented with character education. They believed the new generations should be brought up both morally and academically strong, as they thought several problems plaguing Pakistan were caused by either separate or incomplete teaching of these two inseparable disciplines. They spoke highly of our schools for equipping our students with the teachings of modern science and universal human values, providing additional English, Mathematics and Science tuitions to our boarding students, and that way day students could visit the dormitory and mingle with their boarding classmates in various academic and socio-cultural programs. This was why these altruistic people would also ask us how they could get involved to assist us in such activities.
Everyone I knew in Pakistan was very generous. I observed often that almost everyone did their best to provide ease to others, whether they were in sound financial condition or not. Especially financially robust businesspeople were very sensitive about the zakat and sadqa (charity). As I witnessed often, several many businessmen I knew provided financial aid to hundreds of social institutions simultaneously; they handed their zakat separately and turned no one away from their doorstep. Businesspeople who assisted our school would always separate those amounts as ‘zakat and non-zakat charity’, and wished them to be disposed accordingly.
Reached many members in a short time
Allocating time to these volunteer works besides our classes and the growing intensity of the work in the PTBA businessmen’s association was tiring. We requested the school administration to reduced our weekly classes. I went to school for only a few lessons a week. I spent most of my time outdoors to meet the needs of the dorm and to address the commercial collaboration demands made by businesspeople. In every visit to traders and businesspeople, we witnessed very beautiful incidents. When we visited to see if we could request some sugar from a businessman for the dormitory, he would also donate sugar, flour and eggs. Over the years, we had many visits like this, during which we received often more than our expectations.
During these periodical visits to parents with friends, we would also brief them in details about our newly-started businessmen’s association. We encouraged businesspeople from Lahore to sell products to or buy goods from Turkey. Many businesspeople we met said they always wished to visit Turkey as a family, but had no time or could find no reliable people to accompany them even during their commercial visits. We, as the businessmen’s association, stated that we would organize both touristic and commercial trips and asked the business community to become members of our association. In this way, it was possible to reach a substantial number of members in a short time.
To be continued…
Part Twenty: The ‘public relations department’ and the ‘businessmen association’ founded by teachers in Lahore