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School or Work?

By Momal Mushtaq | October 19, 2012 | 0 Comment

The faces of Gaadi

“My children can earn 200-300 rupees a day during the sowing and harvesting seasons. Why should I send them to school?” Sajda is one of many parents in the remote village of Gaadi, Pakistan, whose children are being denied an education. This article highlights the cultural and economic decisions behind the low attendance rate at schools in the area.

There are separate primary and middle schools for girls and boys in Gaadi, and all are welcome to attend the nearest high school, 7km away in a neighbouring town. Therefore all children in the village have access to education. This is in spite of relatively low living standards in the area; although Gaadi has been supplied with electricity since the turn of the millennium, the village still lacks access to clean water and natural gas. Recent floods have caused severe damage to the crops.

On being questioned if her children will still be working in the fields now that the crops are destroyed, Sajda says “they they will find other work.” Her husband, Nazar, keeps their children away from school not just for economic reasons. He is of the belief that education westernises women and makes them self-dependent, while men and women are meant to play different roles and should remain unequal.

Sajda’s views are shared by Kalsoom, 38, who has one daughter and three sons. She would like to send her children to school, but the long-term benefits of education are difficult to see while she receives the immediate income earned by working.

The children of Gaadi, on the other hand, hold different views. “I want to go to school,” states to 11-year-old Aimen. “I feel education makes a man truly human. It helps him to differentiate between right and wrong in order to do good.” Safa and Marwa say: “We can’t read but we like books with pictures.”

Ali expresses interest in computing. His mother, Nazia, is clear in her mind of the importance of education; every day she sends Ali on the 45 minute journey to attend a school in Taunsa Sharif, a town in which he has been using a computer in his aunt’s house.

The children’s eyes sparkle as they talk and it is apparent that the youth of Pakistan has a desire to be educated. With 63% of Pakistan’s population under the age of 25, young people are the torchbearers of the country’s future. The question is whether the cultural and economic factors causing parents to keep their children away from education will continue to have such an influence. If they can be overturned, Pakistan may not be far from seeing a fairer and more literate society.

Originally published in International Reporters on 19.10.2012

Momal Mushtaq

I am a passionate women's rights activist and an aspiring social entrepreneur from Pakistan. My work in development and media communications, with focus on youth and gender equality, has been recognized by global awards, including a first place award from the United Nations.

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