June 05, 2012
Two Knox College students, Yumna and Minah Rathore, have produced a documentary about one woman's determination to educate underprivileged youth in Pakistan.
The sisters' recently completed film, Roshni: A Light that Ignites Hope, spotlights Roshni Public School and its founder, Shakira Zaqi. (Photo above: Minah Rathore, left, and Yumna Rathore, right, with Shakira Zaqi.)
Yumna, a graduating senior majoring in international relations and economics, and Minah, a sophomore majoring in international relations, are originally from Islamabad, Pakistan. With support from a Richter Grant, they traveled to Pakistan in December 2011 to collect film footage and conduct interviews with students, teachers, and others associated with the school, a non-governmental organization that serves children in impoverished neighborhoods.
The Rathore sisters spent two academic terms -- Winter 2012 and Spring 2012 -- editing and polishing their 20-minute film as an independent study project.
"We were fascinated with the aim of the school, which was to take street children in Qayyumabad and Buffer Zone (two sections of Karachi, Pakistan), give them free uniforms and books, and turn them into school children," said Yumna (in photo at right).
Through their coursework at Knox, the sisters have gained specialized skills and knowledge that they applied to the documentary project. Minah is minoring in journalism and Middle Eastern Studies. Yumna has studied non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international development at Knox, and she plans to attend graduate school to focus on international education and development in Asia.
"Minah and Yumnah were really a delight to work with," he said. "I would give them a suggestion: 'come back with a rough storyboard of how you see the pieces fitting together' or 'go find a dozen documentaries you like and tell me why you like them,' and they would come back in a week with a carefully thought-through plan and several good ideas for edits, cuts and inter titles.
"It's been clear how much this project means to them personally, but also how effectively they've used it as a learning opportunity."
Reflecting on the project, Minah said, "Sometimes people take their blessings for granted. I believe that we need to start counting our blessings, and this independent study project will allow people to realize that there is a whole world out there that needs their help." (Photo below right: Minah Rathore talks with children at Roshni Public School.)
Yumna added that she hopes the documentary will teach Knox students about the daily struggles of poor children in developing countries.
"It is not as simple as waking up in the morning and coming to school," she said. "We want Knox students to understand that NGOs are possible solutions to development, but we also want them to see the obstacles faced by NGOs every day."
A few years ago, Yumna said, she would not have envisioned herself taking on the task of producing a documentary. But being at Knox made it happen.
"I hope that this will serve to show how Knox teaches students to pursue and elaborate on any initial idea a student may have, however ridiculous it may seem at the beginning," she said.