By Asif Saffar Khaskheli
I wonder for a while how to break the puzzle that why village school managements have stopped inter-school quiz and speech competitions and arranging exposure visits to some historical places for children’s learning.
Promoting sports activities through arranging tournaments had produced many champions in different traditional games in rural areas of Sindh. Scientific exhibitions to enhance knowledge regarding astronomy, raining, clouds, awareness-raising about the nature, flora and fauna were highly inspiring things for village children.
Now these children just go to school and return home the same way without learning science, preparing for performing tableau, entertaining themselves with sports, music, singing and poetry. Library bookshelf and sport kits are missing from academic buildings.
The government claims to have initiated free and compulsory education from primary to matriculation. But the parents have changed their mindset, preferring to put engage their children to join their hands in traditional work instead of sending them to schools.
Horrible situation is that after the widely displacement and destruction by the three consecutive year floods hundreds of families yet to resume their work and still staying out of their native areas.
In result, academic buildings have been named ghost, without teachers, inspection teams and sense of ownership by teachers and parents.
It was June’s hot day morning when I was in hurry to catch a public transport to reach my destination, outside Hyderabad city. I hardly passed one street, I saw five school going girls with their mother were there, knocking door-to-door and ringing bells to beg a piece of meal or may be currency coins to quench their hunger.
I know many guiltless girls belonging to poor families do work in residences, wash clothes and containers, clean floor and earn little amount for month to ease their families. Some of them have different nature of work for 12—14 hours a day at two-three residences in the neighborhoods. It is obvious that against this day-long work they earn a meager amount of Rs2500–3000 for month, less than the government’s minimum wage standard Rs10,000 (as declared in this 2013-2014 budget).
I also guess these women and children may belong to the displaced families, who are still wandering in urban centers without proper job.
In an ideal world, there should be pen, books and school bags in the hand of these children, which only seem in rare cases in our society. Nobody is there from policy makers, economists and politicians to measure the pain of the poverty. The poor themselves can narrate the anguish rightly. But irony is that they (common people) do not have access to sensitize these politicians, economists and policy makers—even those who floated idea to have free and compulsory education for all the children. It happens because there is a gap of understanding between policy makers and those are victims of denial.
Over the decade, reportedly Pakistan has been ranked 113th of the 120 countries on the Education Development Index, as seven million children –aged three to five– have yet to receive primary education.
I led the survey conducted by a non-governmental ‘Sindh Health, Education, Enterprise and Development Organisation (SHEEDO) in Matiari district two years back, where several school buildings were under the control of village chieftains, using the same as warehouses, depriving children of their basic right to education.
There was an inspiring role of conscious landlords as philanthropists long ago to encourage children belonging to poor families to get higher education. They (landlords) used to bear expenses of education of children, offering outside teachers to stay there with free accommodation and food. There are many institutions like Sindh Maddresatul Islam in Karachi, which were established with the generously donation by such philanthropists and landlords of the time. This role of landlord families has also been changed.
Reports published in local Sindhi dailies show that how children are insecure at their homes, institutes, workplaces and in the society. Criminals are on rampage targeting children, kidnapping them for ransom and even murdering them in case of delay in payment of ransom.
There is no long-term strategy against such type of sinister calamities at government and civil society level. Lobbying groups have their own style of work to save the future of nation. Somebody may feel it is not possible at this moment, because of lack of political will. But let’s promise with ourselves to take initiatives individually, especially in backward areas to sensitize parents and the schools management for resuming creative activities in academic buildings, instead of disappointing them through their indifferent approach.
Only the signatory on international treaties (Convention on the Rights of the Child–CRC, Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — CEDAW- Universal Declaration of Human Rights- UNDHR) are not enough here. Ideally state is prime responsible to fulfill child needs and protect them.
Anyway, if the government and policy makers cannot ensure provision of right to education, being members of this society everybody should take responsibility and think for how long we will see this happening. Because, these sorts of mishaps are destroying the life of twinkle stars (the nation builders of future).