In the second of our ‘Battles to School’ blogs, we’re looking at the story of Farakhat and the pressures on him to work, potentially contributing to the already alarming statistics on out-of-school children.
This is part of a series of blogs we’re publishing which look at the difficulties some of our children face to attend school.
Inspired by a relative’s career, Farakhat wishes to one day be a bank manager. He plans to study hard, perform well in exams and realise his dream of making a decent wage.
But the reality is his family desperately need income now. Soon Farakhat may have to choose between his education and working to support himself and his relatives.
Sadly, Farakhat’s story is not unusual. In fact, a UNICEF Annual Report on out-of-school children in 2013 found more than 6.5 million children in Pakistan were not in primary school and a further 2.7 million were not in lower secondary school.
The report found out-of-school children often face deep-rooted inequalities and disparities. In Pakistan, where Farakhat lives, these most commonly include factors linked to gender biases, income poverty, child labour, inadequacies in schools and teachers, lack of infrastructure and inadequate facilities for girls. However, these are just a sample of the issues, as the report includes a much longer and discouraging list.
It’s a heavy pressure to put on the shoulders of a teenager, but Farakhat’s family may have no other choice but to put their son to work. It’s a difficult decision no parent ever wants to make, but if they want to put food on the table and a roof over their children’s heads it may be the only solution.
Farakhat, who has three younger brothers and an older sister, is determined to stay in education, and remains hopeful he can keep attending class.
The READ Foundation School student says: “My father works as a labourer cutting grass and working outside.
“But the work comes and goes, so one month he is able to pay the bills and the next month he can’t.
“I have helped my father with some work before, but I don’t want to do it full time.”
Farakhat is in grade 9 and loves nothing more than going to school and watching cricket. He recently scored 81% in his exams and wants to study computing and maths to help his career prospects.
Just like a typical child full of optimism, he also has big dreams for his future.
“A cousin of mine works in a bank, so I’d like to be a bank manager,” he says. “I want to be able to make money and provide for my family.”
Money is a theme constantly playing on the minds of his family – when his father is out (when he is able to get work) his mother looks after the family home, worrying how they will make ends meet that week.
“We can hardly manage our daily expenses,” says his mother. “We sometimes struggle to pay bills and then we become in debt.
“I’d love to be able to afford our own house, so we’d have more stability.”
She proudly speaks of her son’s intelligence and how she too would love to see him realise his dream of working in a bank, or perhaps training to be a doctor.
But the longer-term goal of a high-flying career may soon be usurped by the more pressing need of getting income in now.
“I know he is very intelligent and he did really well on his exams,” says his mother. “But we do need him to work because we struggle to pay bills.”