Zahra Salem al Aufi’s voluntary work in the service of the nation to sow the seeds of learning in the most remote areas of Oman bewildered many. She is now an inspiration to a whole nation after recently being honoured by the Honourable Lady, the Spouse of His Majesty the Sultan, in recognition of her efforts to spread literacy.
“The recognition from the Honourable Lady is the greatest motivation for me to continue my work,” Zahra told Muscat Daily.
Zahra started her voluntary work in eradicating illiteracy in Al Hamra, Governorate of Dakhiliyah, in 2007. She started teaching five year olds how to read and write in her own house. On occasions, she also taught the children under the shade of trees. As time went by, her project expanded to include neighbouring villages.
To fund her project – not surprisingly – called ‘The Literacy of the Sons of My Village is My Responsibility’, Zahra cooked and sold food.
“I cooked at home and engaged workers to raise money to pay monthly bonuses for the teachers. I was also able to raise money for books, school supplies and rent for classrooms in this way,” Zahra recalls.
What started from her house now includes 22 schools and 500 students involving 40 teachers in the villages of Jebel al Sharqi, Jebel Shams and Misfat al Abrien.
In 2017, Zahra was conferred the Sultan Qaboos Award for Voluntary Work.
Several countries in the Arab world, besides Belgium, have honoured her voluntary work.
The challenges Zahra faced in her work weren’t limited to access due to remoteness or difficult terrain.
“Unfortunately, some people have been disappointed with your work. But I overcame resistance with patience and determination. Some people have also donated and supported us financially,” she said, adding that she could always count on her husband and seven children for help.
Thanking all those who have supported her efforts, she pledged to continue her voluntary work and start more classes to spread education.