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ICC Note:

In Pakistan, many Christian families struggle below the country’s poverty line. Generations of grinding poverty and lack of education has caused most of Pakistan’s Christian population to live on the margins of society, doing daily labor to earn enough money to put food on the table. There are very few options for Christian children to receive any education outside of the country’s public school system in which Islam as a mandatory subject. In one town, a Christian school is now closing due to lack of funds. It used to offer free Christian education to the local Christian population. Now with it on the way out, many Christian families in the area are losing hope for the education of their future generations. 

6/16/2014 Pakistan (Christian Post) – One of the prized treasures for Christian parents in my country of Pakistan, is education for their children. But, for many, they are so poor that they cannot afford to pay school fees, which means that their kids will continue to be trapped in the grinding generational poverty, and work as child laborers, with no way to escape it.

But first, let me set the scene for you about Pakistan, which is situated in south Asia with a 160 million population.

Christians are 1.5% percent of the total population of the country. They remain poor and most of their time is spent in trying to get daily bread for their families. In this daily struggle, often the poor Christian families give the least priority to in providing an education for their children, as food is a priority.

In view of this, I have looked into the needs of these people and have studied some of the areas in the city of Toba Tek Singh, where I live, and its adjoining villages, where so many are not only poor, but also illiterate, and are just trying to survive.

I want to share a heartbreaking story of 120 children who face a critical situation regarding their education. The school’s name is St. Teresa’s School, which was built in 1998 by a Catholic mission and is situated in a small village called 295 G.B.

In the beginning, the Parish priest of our city would travel there to help with the running of school, which was providing hope for local deprived Christian families. When it opened, the parents were thrilled to see their kids getting an education, which they couldn’t afford to provide, and which many of them had never experienced. The children were also so happy to be able to attend a school in their impoverished village, and they began to learn so much and also get much love from school staff and fellow students.

Most of the men and boys of this village work in the brick kiln factories, making bricks in the sweltering heat, and are daily wage workers, meaning their income is so small that they can hardly get food and other needs for their families, so education is way down their list of priorities.

Most of the women work in the homes of local wealthy landlords and often face abuse and dangerous situations, which sometimes even includes rape.

But at St. Teresa’s, they began to find hope and a way for their children to finally get a good education and make their lives successful, so they could escape from the grind of the daily lives of their poor parents.

The school also provides a biblical education for kids, many of whom pass their 5th grade from this school and were planning to go on for further education.

But now, has come the alarming news that the school could close as the Catholic mission has decided to stop funding it. The school administration is naturally very upset about this situation, and the village community is heartbroken because they are losing hope for their kid’s future if the school is shut-down because of lack of funds.

When I heard about this situation, I headed over to St. Teresa’s to meet with Mr. Asif Khana, the school principal, who told me about the situation, saying that the school had been a “big hope” for the many Christian families in the village, and that the kids had been “so happy and very good students.” He added, “They are the future of the Christians in our nation. All of our staff are so upset because they have had such great interaction with their kids.”

I was also able to talk with some of the parents, one of whom was Parveen Bibi, a 35-year-old mother of three. She belongs to a very poor family and works as a cleaner at the home of a village landlord. She has a very small income, which means that she can’t afford to send her kids to school to get an education — until St. Teresa’s opened up.

“The school was our hope and we were so happy that our kids could get a good general and biblical education,” she said. “My three children are in different classes and when they come home each day, they share with me how their day had gone. I request all people to not allow this school to close, because, if it does, the Christian hope for our children, will be lost.”

Saleem Masih is 29-year-old father and works at one of the local brick kiln factories. “I get very small pay and it is not enough to provide proper food for my family, so how could I send my kids to an expensive school? However, when St. Teresa’s opened, it was such a blessing for us and our kids. They love to learn, and I feel so proud when my son tells me about the Bible and shares the words of Jesus with me and my wife.

“I am an uneducated man and I never before knew about Jesus and His words, but now I am learning all about them. When I sometimes go to the school and see my kids read Bible stories, I am so happy. I am praying now that God will provide all the needs of the school, so it won’t have to close.”

I also met with some of the school kids, including Kaiynat, who is just 11-years-old and studies in the 4th grade. She told me, “I am was so shocked when I heard that our school could soon be closed. This is my home where I have many friends and brothers and sisters. My teachers are great and they always care for us and share the blessings of Jesus with all of us.”

With that, she broke down in tears, and then, after composing herself, added, “I want to get study more and become doctor and work for my Christian community.”

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