By not been ended as she wishes

By
Arshad Yousafzai

A
classroom at Government Boys School located in a remote area of Sindh, the Abdullah
Mari Goth Mirpur Khas, used to be full of boys where a girl child—Shamim Mari, hardly
9 or 10 years old at that time, used to sit among them—studied her early education
wearing boys dress for around 12 years—yet her struggle and difficulties not
been ended as she wishes to be a permanent teacher at school.   

Mari
belongs to a conservative Baloch family. After completing her education, she
started working as a health worker, and in 2014, persuaded her family to start
teaching at a government school after recruited on a contractual basis through
the NTS.

However,
on November 30, 2017 she heard that she is one among thousands of teachers,
whose contracts would not be extended. Now Mari is part of teachers’ campaign
demanding Sindh government to regularize them. In this struggle, she suffered
from police’ baton charge on December 25 at Karachi Press Club when these teachers
were moving towards Sindh assembly.

She
got success qualified a test that conducted by National Testing Services for
the recruitment of teacher in 2014, she joined Government Girls High School
Phullahdyoon located some 45 Kilometer away from the city of Mirpur Khas, to
educate further girls of the area but police violence against teachers has disappointed
her. She complained against the attitude of Sindh government with teachers.      

Although,
she represented Pakistan and Sindh on various international forms including Ted
Talks in USA that held in November 2017. On the behalf of Plan International
Pakistan, an origination campaigns for child development she attended an International
seminar in Bangladesh on child rights held in 2013. She also delivered a
lecture entitled Sindh Education Status and Girls Education in Kenya in 2015.    

Her schooling days

The
News interviewed Mari at the sit-in camp at KPC she told her struggle tales. According
to her, she born in a conservative Baloch Mari tribe, where women and girls were
the matter of honor and they were not allowed to go out from their homes unless
accompanied by male even to attend education or go for treatment to hospitals.

Mari
narrated that one of her uncle, Muhammad Aslam Mari was a university alumnae. He
was not in favor of these customs and traditions. He wanted to give an opportunity
of education to her niece. He was of the opinion that Shamim become a part of
society and play a role for educating girls.

Luckily,
she had a name that could be used for both men and women; her uncle saw a chance
to change the course of her life. He decided to raise her as male. She was
given a boy’s get up and allowed to go outside her home and get education in a
Boys school. She was free. She is now confident. She became a voice for girls’
education.

In curtail, she noticed everyday injustices faced by girls and women in her village. “When the newspaper arrived at our home, it used to pass from eldest male to youngest
male. By the time the she got hold the paper for reading by saying it is old news.
She completes her 8th grade year in 1996 and was feared to keep
continue further education.

 

Her struggle to complete matriculation

After completion it would be the end of her education because local high school was 5 Km away from her home. The boys have
bicycles and they were free to go school. She also knew that her father, Muhammad Muneer Mari would not allow her to travel on her own. Even, if she were
posing as a boy.

 “I can’t let you do that,” and “I
don’t have the time to walk you there and back. I’m sorry, it’s impossible”, her father told her she recalled.

 

She got very upset.  But a miracle happened; a relative offered to teach her the curriculum for 9th and 10th levels during the summer months. In this way she hardly completed her matriculation in 1998.

 

“Millions of girls were denied their
basic rights because of being female. This is what I would have faced I if hadn’t
been raised like a boy”, Mari added.

How she got admission in college

After high schooling, even enrolling in
college was not easy for her – she went on a three days hunger strike – that is
when she got permission and in this way she completed college. Two years later,
when the time came for her to peruse higher education at university, her father
has turned his attention to her younger brothers—they were needed to go to
school, secure jobs and help to support their family.

She started her career as health worker

As a woman, her destiny was home where
she would have to cock, eat and sleep and don’t think about girls’ rights or to
be changed tribal traditions. But she continued her struggle, she sign up for a
two-year program to become a female health visitor. Then she joined an NGO that
was working to empower rural communities in rural Sindh.

“I traveled for five hours to interview
for a position. I got the job but the hardest part was facing my father because
most of our relatives were already teasing him about his daughter wandering off
and scaring him with talk of her crossing the border, when I arrived home”

However, she decided to talk to her
father. She packed all of her belongings into a bag—like pillowcase.

She walked into her father’s room, and
said to him, the bus would come in the morning. “If you believe in me, you would
wake me up and drop me off at the station. If you don’t wake me up, I’ll
understand”.

The next morning, her father was there to
take her to the bus stop. “On that day I learned the importance of words,
I learned how words affect our hearts and play an important role in our lives.
I learned that negotiating is more helpful than fighting”.

She began to observe other areas of
rural Sind where some women had 11 children and nothing to feed them. To get
water, they would walk three hours every day to wells about six, maybe seven,
kilometers away. There were no schools and the nearest hospital available for
them.

Mari ascertained if a woman is in labor
and travels by camel to reach the hospital for treatment she may die on the way
due to the long distance. “It became more than just a job for me, it became my
passion”.

She was happy to be a part of the NGO
working for rural communities. But, mindset of the people in her village is yet
to be changed. The discriminative remarks made by her villagers and recitatives
didn’t left her alone all the time.    

Her role as a teacher

So far, she discussed the problems—most
of the reservations and rumors created by her relatives and tribe elders with
her father, Muhammad Muneer Mari. He suggested her to join teaching.   She appeared
in the NTS and got a job as a teacher in 2014. 

Shamims started her new job with dreams
in her eyes—the freedom, educating girls and uplifting lifestyle of the people
resided in her village. “They are eager to learn, but the school is understaffed.
Girls sit hopeful, but not learning anything, and then leave. I can’t bear to
see that happening. There is no turning back”.

She says, “I
thought that teaching is enough but now I realized there are many issues and
challenges in the system”.

What she observed during three
years job as teacher

She
said there is a shortage of teachers. Teachers from cities are not ready to
travel long hours to come and teach in rural areas; college is at least 45 Km
away from my village  and most of girls
are poor, so travelling one hours distance every day is expensive and also
risky.

The
Schools don’t have science laboratory, teaching and making children to
understand science theories without science lab is really a tough job. For
resolving these issues she met with district officials and also she approached to
provincial minster for education but she failed to fix these issues.

What are her ambitions?  

She
says, “I have never stopped studying.  Today I am working to complete my PhD.  My thesis is on the issue of seasonal
migration in Tharparkar and its negative impact on children’s education”. She is
near to complete her PhD by the end of 2018. She wished to gain a management
position within the government school system.

She is not hopeless

She
says, “I know the way I chose is very difficult, the destination is not close but I
have dreams in my eyes and I am not going to look back now”.

She is however upset over the
provincial government attitude towards the protesting teachers—over the baton
charged, violence on teachers and insulting them on roads. Mari believe that she
will easily qualify if Sindh government would conducted a new NTS test for
teachers’ recruitment but she think it is injustice with those teachers who were
once recruited through NTS.

She hoped that Sindh government will
understand her plea for education and will give permanent status of job to her
and other colleague for the sake of future of thousands of children in rural
area.