Encouraging Signs of Progress
There are many inflated claims made about the state of education and literacy in Pakistan. Those who work directly in this field tell a very different story. Almost everyday children are seen playing in the dirt on the streets during the time they should be in school. Either their parents cannot afford to send them to school, or their parents really have no awareness of the value of education. The problem is vast, and most of the time all we can hope to do is plow and sow the field we find ourselves in and hope that the fruit of our efforts will flow over to the neighboring fields.
Having come to St. Columban’s Parish Green Town Lahore, Pakistan, almost two years ago now, this is the effort in which we have been engaged. At that time there were 176 students in a sadly dilapidated building with toilets that only the bravest were prepared to use. Many of the female students told me that in the morning before coming to school they never ate or drank anything so as not to have to use the toilet during the day. The schoolroom floors were torn up, and cleanliness was more of a wish than an achievable fact.
The generosity of our supporters has changed all of those issues substantially. Now, the school has a new toilet block, four for male students, four for female students and one each for male and female teachers. The roof, which was crumbling and dangerous to the students underneath it, has been completely replaced. Many of the schoolroom floors have been replaced with marble tiles, and new steel doors have been put in place. It is important in the prevailing atmosphere to protect the little we have at the school.
The immediate positive effect of all of this is seen in the fact that the number of students is now nearly 300. We have a good staff all of whom have a very acceptable level of education including a brother and sister, Waqar and Kirn, who are qualified in the field of science.
There is much work that remains to be done. We still don’t have proper school furniture. We have made great efforts to repair some of the old stuff, but we are still coming up short. With the growing number of students, this problem is becoming more acute. In addition, covering the day to day running costs is always a struggle because the school is dependent on the parents paying the fees of their children. Many of them, very often, are unable to pay the fees due to economic hardship.
However, we remain hopeful. Just recently we had a very enjoyable exam result and prize giving day. This encourages the students to strive to do better. Much progress has been made, and we are thankful to God and deeply indebted to the generosity of our benefactors. We look forward to the day when an increased awareness of the value of education and, hopefully, a better standard of living for the people will allow us to work more independently.