In the Sindh province of Pakistan, 1.8 million primary age children are not in school. This figure is easy to believe when you drive out of the city and see children labouring in the fields, harvesting the crops, often alongside their parents. The parents either don’t realise the value of sending their children to school as they haven’t experienced it themselves, or they do, but have no choice as a result of debt bondage. Bonded labour is a result of the feudal system left behind by the British when they gave governing responsibilities to landowners. Families are left to the mercy of the landlords and are forced to work for an often undefined amount of time in order to pay off the debts of previous generations. It is generally against the interest of the landlords to provide education for their workers, as they would learn to fight for their rights. Even when families aren’t oppressed by debt bondage, they can’t see beyond the short term benefits of the small income their children receive, working in the fields.
As not every village has a school, boys are much more likely to be sent off to a village to be schooled as they can stay with relatives or live in a hostel. This has resulted in a 66% male enrolment in rural Sindh compared to 34% for females. A female, living in a rural area, as a member of an ethnic minority in an agrarian community, is the most disadvantaged citizen in Pakistan. This gender imbalance is perpetuated by traditional values and pre-determined roles placed on them by Pakistani society. The expectation is that they stay in the home, and serve their often illiterate husbands. If girls are educated, they are equipped with the tools they need to fight the heavy prejudice weighing against them and get married to more educated men at the appropriate age. Opportunities are given in the classroom to increase their confidence which will make them more likely to stand up for themselves and increase their chances of better circumstances.
Sangeeta (13) is a girl whose parents understood the value of her education. They have given her their blessing to continue her education all the way to university level. She wants to become a lawyer and fight to give others the same opportunities that she has received. She says that she is the Malala of her village as she wants every child to go to school and receive a quality education. She went around to every house hold in the surrounding villages to petition parents to allow their children to go to school.