After Ghulam Yaseen’s education was interrupted, his life was not like an ordinary child’s anymore. Whilst he remained shy, his eyes lit up at the sight before him – concealing the sadness he felt because of not being able to live his youth.
On a bright morning in Liaquatpur, a village located 110 kilometers from Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan, Ghulam was standing alone, looking on to a crowd of children playing in the ground. Whilst he remained shy, his eyes lit up at the sight before him – concealing the sadness he felt because of not being able to live his youth. He wanted to see himself sharing the playground with all those children. His dust-ridden hands from his relentless hard work in the scorching brick kiln chambers, however, told a different story.
Ghulam Yaseen’s story is one of many. Millions of children lost their fundamental right of education to child labor. As a result of an unfortunate financial crisis, Ghulam Yaseen's parents decided to pull their son – enrolled in the third grade – out of school and sent the young boy off to find work in the sweltering conditions of Liaquatpur. Ghulam Yaseen ended up in a brick kiln where laborers work in the most hazardous environment with detrimental effects on health such as heat strokes, skin burns and lung problems, amongst others. Young Ghulam deserved to be inside the secure brick walls of his school, not building them outside the bounds of safety and health, especially at his tender age.
According to Pakistan’s Labor Department Statistics (2016), there are 23,642 children below the age of 14 working in brick kilns. The number escalates to 12 million children involved in child labor in Pakistan, according to the International Labor Organization. Brick kilns are merely a small fragment of the whole picture.
Fortunately, Ghulam Yaseen’s challenging days in the kiln did not last too long as his fate finally showed him the light. Through the efforts of a program funded by Dubai Cares, he is now back with his classmates, whom he once left off under dire circumstances. One of the para teachers identified him during the household survey and convinced his family to enroll him back into the school, after a series of counseling sessions. He started off with a local camp which primarily focuses on out-of-school children and helps them to mainstream in formal school system after improving and assessing their learning levels over a period of two months. Ghulam Yaseen participated in the camp and after a year-long gap, he was re-enrolled in the third grade. Now, Ghulam Yaseen sees his aspirations turning into reality. The dreams he once envisaged through his eyes – now lie right ahead of him. He can now not only read and write sentences in Urdu and English but can also multiply up to two digit numbers. As Ghulam himself puts it “I have big dreams which I will achieve one day so I can take care of my family. When I grow up, I will also make sure that all the kids in my village go to school instead of working in brick kilns”.
Through this program, his resilience and determination sparkles with the innocence of his youth. This program also reflects on the aspirations of millions of those children who have been in the disadvantaged fringes of society. The goal is to ensure that cases such as that of Ghulam Yaseen become an anomaly in Pakistan. The fruits of this program reflect the very essence of the International Literacy Day and commemorate the importance of quality education.