According to the recent Pakistan Education Statistics, 22.6 million Pakistani children are still out of school. This roughly calculates as 44 percent of children between the ages of five and 16 who are still out of school. Moreover, 21 percent of primary schools in the country are being run by a single teacher while 14 percent have only one classroom. Many children in secluded villages have no access to education at all and have never even seen a classroom. The 22.6 million statistic of children out of school is alarming enough, but I think the actual figure is much higher when you look at the actual situation on the ground. Aside from many children being deprived of education, in many cases education is not considered a priority and it is not seen as a vital tool in life. A lot of awareness raising is still needed to be done to bring home the importance of education.
Recently, I visited one of our farthest Christian villages at approximately 145 kilometers distance from our mission station. Just before reaching the village, I noticed a young boy sitting by the roadside with his merchandise. When I stopped to approach him, I realized that he was selling some kind of fruit vegetables. He was ever so polite and at the same time very serious about his business and eagerly awaiting customers to sell his products. He was an expert and a smart “businessboy” as he confidently said “no” when we teasin’
When I inquired if he attended school, he immediately said no, the school is quite far and we (the whole family) need to work extra hard for our daily meal. I also found out that his other brother and sister were working with their parents in the field as day laborers. Raju is just one of the many children who are out of school.
Here, especially in Sindh, small boys from age six working in automotive, tailoring and carpentry shops are an regular sight. They start as helpers doing some cleaning, passing tools to the mechanic and any other assistance that they can provide in exchange of some rupees at the end of the day. After a number of years of patiently observing and learning basic skills, they eventually open their own shops. They in turn will hire young boys to help them and these boys sooner or later will open their own businesses. This is the cycle of life for many and this is how they acquire skills. “Learning is also acquired outside the classroom,” as they say.
As we continue our tribal apostolate here in the southern part of Pakistan, together with the Presentation Sisters our mission partners, we are also involved in providing education at different levels. For quite a number of years now, the Presentation Sisters have been providing accessible education in different villages. Our parish also runs an adult literacy program in different villages and organizes non-formal education wherever we find ourselves. It is our benefactors who make this mission possible by providing us with much needed resources. May God reward them!
Edson Paguntalan mhm