Across the province of Sindh, people often vote according to the whims of the elders in their locality. Be it the landlord, the tribal chief, your father, grand-father or uncle.
Ever since I have been born, this is what I have observed and, as a matter of fact, the first time I went to cast my vote, it was for Pakistan People’s Party because my father asked me to, and this is the reason why I have voted only twice in my thirty-six years of life.
But this time, I have vowed that in the upcoming general elections, I will not pay heed to what my elders will tell me. Instead, I will pay attention to what those kids say, who are forced to sit on tattered mats, studying under the intense summer sun without a shade on their head at state-run schools.
As a matter of fact, I believe that the jails in our country are probably in better shape than the government schools.
And that is why, I have decided that I will listen to the silence of those innocent students, who don’t speak out, but their eyes give away the burning question in their minds: “What did we do wrong? Is it our fault that we were born in this province?”
Our chattering class loves to talk about the brutality unleashed upon the children in Kashmir, Burma, Palestine, Syria and Afghanistan but they will never say a word about what happens to the children in their own country.
One must condemn the violence and injustice meted out to people in those countries, but that does not mean that we don’t even acknowledge what happens to the young students who have no choice but to go to a shelter-less school, where they bear the brunt of the harsh sun and where, by the time the day is over, they are completely spent.
It is an unfortunate reality that as a nation, we have become utterly indifferent. Ever ready to scream demands for justice for children across the world, none of that passion is seen when it comes to children of our own.
If you ever get a chance to take out time from your busy lives, try and visit some small cities and see the conditions of the government schools there.
If you’re a resident of Karachi, instead of spending time and resources going to Larkana to see ancient ruins, you might as well visit the villages beyond the Super Highway and National Highway Toll plazas and see the ground reality of those government schools, which will compel you to reflect on the sorry state of education and schooling in our country.
And if you think you’re unable to do anything to help these schools, well, you could at least take out your smart phone and share pictures from the visit with a comment or a caption saying, “Today I visited some government schools.” One would hope that this IS the least you could do.
And this is what I have been doing for the last two years. Every time I visit a government school and then return home, I shed a tear or two when I see my own daughter. She studies in one of the prestigious schools in the city and she has all the comforts available to her at home, but when I compare the facilities she enjoys with those available to students at a government school, I can do nothing but shake my head in utter disgust.
Thus, I have vowed that I will keep raising the voice for the children who go to government schools, regardless of anybody paying attention or not.
Now, to some concrete steps. There are five things we could do to start improving the conditions of government schools in Sindh.
The Sindh government could have tried to build five model primary, secondary, middle and high schools, as well as five colleges and five universities in even ONE district of the Province of Sindh, providing them with state of the art facilities and structure.
But unfortunately, the government could not.
And if those were difficult, could they have tried do the following?
Provide drinking water
Provide boundary wall
Provide buildings that are sheltered and secure
But sadly, the truth of the matter is that let alone potable water, we don’t have ANY water in these schools.
Often, parents don’t send their children to school simply because of school washrooms don’t have running water.
Similarly, a fair number of schools in villages have load shedding lasting more than six hours and there are schools where classes are held under a crumbling building, putting the safety of the children at risk.
That day I decided to quit my job to become headmaster
Gender disparity, lack of specialist teachers to be addressed
Inadequate facilities swelling ranks of out-of-school children