In a purely male-dominated, tribal society which does not allow women to step out of their homes, much less dream of an education, girls like Aarti Dev are defying unfavorable odds in an effort to change their social conditions.
Aarti could have gotten married at fifteen. She could have been among the many Balochi girls denied education. But Aarti is no ordinary shy, modest Balochi girl. The tall and assertive seventeen year old, exuding exuberance and vivaciousness, is unwavering in achieving her goal to be a teacher.
“I want to be a teacher like my Sir (tutor), an expert English language teacher. There are many different kinds of professions in the world but as far as I am concerned, teaching is one of the most respectful jobs. It is also the hardest and toughest job because a teacher has to deal with a lot of students, coming from different strata of society and having different levels of intelligence. Each student’s mind and point of view is different. The welfare of the students is in the hands of a teacher and it is the responsibility of the teacher to instill knowledge in them,” she says.
In Pasni, Balochistan, there are no colleges. Anyone who wants to study after class ten has to go to either Turbat or Gwadar. For girls this is only possible if there are relatives in these towns who are willing to have them live with them in order to continue their education till class twelve. Non availability of secondary schools proves to be a deterrent for female students. Usually girls are withdrawn from school after they complete class eight or ten, to be married off. Aarti completed her grade ten in 2007 from the local public school in Pasni and joined a computer centre in order to be proficient in computers and get a job to further her studies.
“As you know in this modern era having just a grade ten certificate is nothing for any type of job. After I completed my grade ten I joined a computer center where I learnt MS Office. The teacher offered me a teaching job. I objected as I wanted to learn, but he waived off the objections saying that I have the potential and confidence to teach. I finally agreed and used to teach in the morning for Rs 2000 (less than US $ 25) a month and learn in the afternoon,” says Aarti.
It is rightly said that there is a sucker born every minute providing fodder for the conmen. Her computer teacher after building a rapport persuaded her to buy a computer from his shop in order to practice at home. Two weeks later taking advantage of Aarti’s gullibility and her thirst to learn, he played the ace card.
Aarti says: “One day he said he is going to Karachi to get the latest PC with Internet system for which he needs money.
He borrowed Rs 20,000 from my poor parents and has not returned till now. It was a big loss for my parents just because of me. I also lost my job. I held fast to my goal and asked God to give me a brave and persevering heart.”
Against the wishes of her father and with the blessing of her mother she is now attending a private tuition center to learn English language. A step towards achieving her goal.
“I saw the advertisement of Knowledge Inn English Language centre on TV and sent my brother to the director, Mr. Rashid Haider, for my admission. In fact in school I used to hear about him, that he is one of the best English teachers of Balochistan. Many of my teachers also learnt English from him. So, when I heard about his new centre in Pasni, I decided that I must not miss this golden chance and joined the centre. Actually I want to have all the degrees and I want to be a MINE OF INFORMATION!” says the gutsy girl.
“Initially my father was not in favor of sending me to Knowledge Inn. He said that since I have completed class ten I should stay home and do household chores till a suitable proposal comes for me and then I would be married off. However my mother persuaded him and he permitted me to attend the centre.”
Shama, like all mothers, is Aarti’s powerful guiding force. She is the one who has been supporting and encouraging her daughter to continue with her studies knowing full well that such step in a medium-sized town of about 33,000 populace is bound to cause a hullabaloo. Like her daughter, Shama is a strong woman. She stood up to male relatives who were against Aarti continuing her studies.
“I want her (Aarti) to be self-sufficient, mature and successful in future. I don’t want her to encounter any problems in life. The only way she can overcome the problems is through education. There is obscurity in illiteracy. Once she gets her degrees she will have a job and be able to help others,” says Shama.
The dutiful daughter is determined to fulfill her mother’s dreams for her.
“My biggest dream is to see my mother happy and delighted because she has suffered lots of problems in life. I am waiting for the day when my mother will feel proud of having me. I don’t know whether my dream will come true or not but it is my duty to struggle towards my goal, destination till victory or death. This is why every moment, every second of my life is precious for me and I don’t want to waste it. I want to be an example for those girls and parents who do not encourage their daughters to study. I am what I am today all because of my sweet mother,” says Shama looks proudly and with hope and love at her daughter.
A tear trickles down her cheek. The daughter wipes it away and gives her a hug, whispering softly, “I will make you proud of me, Mom.”