This morning I was extremely saddened and outraged to read the article “Pakistani boy ‘killed by teacher” on BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7426980.stm
The story is about a seven year old boy who was hung upside down from a fan for not memorizing his Quran lessons, and as a result of this punishment, died. The teacher has been arrested, but in no way is this justice for the young boy and his family.
I have visited a couple of these religious seminary schools because, lets face it, it is where you will find the poorest of the poor children- and in the same breath, they are some of the most determined and gifted children. I have heard them singing songs and beautifully reciting melodic pages after pages from memory of arabic text from the Quran (try it, it isn’t easy). They have sat in my lap and played with my clothes. Many of them come to these schools from hundreds of miles away, at a chance to learn and have a future. They return to their families only a few times a year, an experience I only endured upon leaving for college at 18. From the schools I have visited, the children are well cared for, well fed, and happy. In these schools they have a purpose and are shielded from many ills that perpetuate the cycle of poverty on the streets and in the villages. Included in their religious education were subjects such as math, languange and geography. Some who graduate become teachers themselves or learned scholars in their small villages. But just as we would expect for our own, these kids should have even better.
This is a picture I took at one such school. These are orphaned girls. They seem shy in the picture since for many of them, this was the first picture anyone had ever taken of them. Afterwards, they swarmed around me to see the digital image and giggled to each other about how they looked.