Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Power of Education

                      The Power of Education
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

Shama woke up early in the morning to give grass to the buffaloes. “After the cattle have eaten, they don’t make a mess while I milk them.” Her father, Abdul Shakoor used to say this to her. Shama was responsible for providing food to the cattle before her father woke up and milked them.

While Shama fed the cattle, her mother, Rashida, made tea. “If I drink tea before I milk the buffaloes, I can milk them better.” He always said this to his wife. Like her daughter, the mother was given the responsibility of making tea early in the morning. The man had limited both women to only chores.

Shama did these chores all day. She had been admitted into school, but her father would not allow her to attend the classes. Her friend, Neelam, used to tell her every day what went on there. “Shama, yesterday the principal announced the date of exams. Are you going to take them or not?” asked Neelam.

“I must appear for the exams at least. I must complete my matriculation. I know my father won’t allow me to study further in college. What about the stipend? When will they give it? My father asks me about it every day. You know I have made him greedy with the stipend, that’s why he allowed me to enroll.”

“Yes, poor sister. I know your story. Well, there is no talk of the stipend in the school so far.” While they both were talking, there was a rattle at the door.

“Open the door, sister. The cattle have returned,” said Kalam, her younger brother.

“Give buckets of water to the buffaloes; they are thirsty,” shouted Abdul Shakoor as he came in from letting the cattle graze.

“Asalam-o-Alaikum, uncle,” Neelam greeted him.

“When will the government give you money? I think they tricked the villagers into getting girls enrolled in the schools,” said Shakoor without replying to Neelam’s greeting.
“No, uncle. They will give the stipend soon.”

“If they don’t give it this month, my girl won’t study anymore.”

“Uncle, she doesn’t study. You just make her do the chores.”

“That’s our wish. You’d better go away before I call your father.”

The month passed, but the girls did not receive the stipend. Shama’s father didn’t allow her to take the exams. She and her mother continued to do the chores and live under orders. On the other side, Neelam continued her education with the support of her parents.

“Father, I feel bad for Shama. She couldn’t sit the exams,” Neelam said to her father, Fatah.

“Why?”

“Because of her father, you know.”

“Oh, poor Shama! In our Sindh, the government does take measures for girls’ education. However, there is a need for awareness as well. For centuries there have been barriers for girls in our society. Neelam, I couldn’t get a degree, but I know the importance of education. I want you to work hard, study properly, reach a good position one day. And be an example for people like Abdul Shakoor.”

“Yes, father. I will make your and my dreams come true. I want to help Shama, but I know if we intervened, her father would fight us. And he would say as always: “I will decide my daughter’s future for myself. It is none of your business.”

“Yes, Neelam. That’s why I am silent. Otherwise, I would have talked with him.”

Days kept going by, Neelam had finished her intermediate education and had gone to study at a university in Islamabad.  As soon as she completed her education, she was offered a job in the government sector. She returned to her native city Larkana after nine years.

“Neelam has changed everything for her family. They are richer and powerful than before. I wish we had sent our girl to school too,” Rashida said to Abdul Shakoor.

“Fatah had fewer buffaloes than me. Even then he could afford the expenses of his daughter’s education. I would never have guessed the power of education. Now that I have seen Fatah driving his big car, I do understand that knowledge is powerful,” Abdul Shakoor repented.

Neelam came to see her old, childhood friend Shama. Abdul Shakoor was amazed to see Neelam beautifully dressed. He looked at Neelam and Shama. Tears fell from his eyes, and he fell on the ground. As Shama saw her father falling, she ran to him. “Father, father, are you alright?” she asked.

“Yes, I am. Forgive me, my obedient daughter. I have destroyed your future. In fact, I have destroyed the future of our whole family.”

“No, father. It wasn’t my fate. You have done nothing wrong.” Daughters like Shama, always respect and value their fathers; no matter whether they are right or wrong. The girls of Sindh, the poet Latif’s land, are always simple and humble.

“I can make your future bright, uncle,” said Neelam.

“It is too late,” commented Rashida.

“It is never too late. If you will allow Shama to live with me in Islamabad, after some years she will be like me. Shama means a beacon. If you ignite the beacon, it will light up the whole room. And if you extinguish it, it will only cause darkness.”

Shama’s father thought he had already made a big mistake, so this time, he should be open-minded. He thanked Neelam for the offer and happily allowed Shama to go to Islamabad and study from scratch.


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