This is a story of Farhan, a 13 year old boy, who works at a local tobacco cum general store since last 3 years owing to his family’s poor financial condition.
His mother works as a maid in a house close to his place whereas his father has setup a meager stall near Clock Tower in the town. He earns around 400-500 rupees/day where as his younger brother who works with him earns around 200-250 rupees/day.
Their sole earning comes from the tip which these brothers receive when they deliver cigarettes, cold drinks, juices, etc. from their shop to any car owners halted nearby.
In this candid chat that I had with him in order to know about his struggles, I interrogated him about his education.
He claimed that he used to study at Government High School near his neighborhood and has passed class 3, but dropped out on his own later.
His family wanted him to study further but he left the school because his teacher used to beat him a lot. He further added that he is happy that he is out of school & no more studying.
It was a tragic thing to hear that children today are abused physically so much that they prefer to drop out of schools at such a young age, if he be believed.
Moving along, when I inquired about his life at the shop, he said that he enjoys it by cracking jokes with his friends which are around 40 in number which are all from other similar shops where he works and the area nearby. In Ramadan, he usually plays cricket with them and loves to play hide & seek as well.
When I asked about his future plans, he replied immediately that he wants to setup his own business & wants to open a ‘shawarma’ shop for himself when he grows up.
Simultaneously, he also wants to open a shop for his father as well. Even though we were at a fast food outlet, he wasn’t eating much, so on a lighter note I asked him to eat, adding that he might go outside Pakistan for work or tourism and most people living abroad eat fast food in restaurants or cafes like these.
To that, he replied that he doesn’t want to go outside Pakistan as people living abroad are not good, as seen on TV- they take drugs & consume alcohol and are addicted to all these curses and they make other people addicted, too.
That was his main reason of not wanting to leave Pakistan.
A mature thing to hear from such a raw and yet unpolished mind.
Later, I happened to ask him- if someone gets you admitted to one of the best school of town, will you go there to study? Without wasting even a single second he answered “No”. I repeated my question several times but his reply was the same, “No, I won’t go to school now”. When I asked him the reason behind this, he said- the life which I have started now is good and I am satisfied with it.
Moreover, if I’ll go to school now my new classmates will tease me and will make fun of me by saying, “Itna barha bacha itni choti class may” (Such an elder boy in this class?) I tried furthermore to change his mind by telling him, “what if there would be a special school where all kids almost your age study together a specific curriculum without any age bracket; will you go to school then?” The answer was same, “No, still I won’t”, saying that he has already made his decision and wasn’t ready to change no matter what.
Its quite saddening to know how our current younger generation is being shaped up. Its hard to say if its the system or the methods used by teachers and other educational institutions’ staff which creates this aversion in the young minds owing to which they run miles away from mere mention of going to school.
This rift between the poor and old leading to child labour, the shallow education system which sorrowfully and simply apes the west and the meager options for the people at grass-root level have become a vicious menace which is leading to a further underdevelopment on a broader scale.
If not anything else, these issues should be dealt with by authorities first and foremost to curb a larger devastation’s onslaught.