Today we visited two schools. One, a normal school, was made for girls and had a strict regime they stuck to with precision. The second, a school set up for children to deter them from succumbing to child labour, was, for me, the more interesting one.
With no funding, the school is set up and run with money from a few of the teachers there. They were being educated in the basics of English, maths, etc. The school is run during the afternoons, so they can still continue their morning work, yet be educated in the evening.
The work of the founders was extremely inspirational for me. I had always thought that to make a change within society, it needs to affect the masses. Seeing the school showed me 30 students' lives that have been dramatically changed, and for me that is reason enough for something to be praised and attempted.
What the day showed me revolved around the idea of how I could make a difference. While I need to assess the exact methods I’ll use to spread the beautiful message of Pakistan, I know that even if it results in one person’s opinion being changed, that is a change to be admired.
Madrassahs have been at the centre of allegations regarding the indoctrination and promotion of extremist views in Islam. We visited the school and no different to any other place so far, were given an extremely warm welcome. I should make it clear at this point that without the incredible work of the British Council, I doubt we would have been accepted so warmly. This again showed me the power of individual change. One institution’s change has affected hundreds of students’ views towards the West, and hence we were welcomed.
As Jamie put very well, the day’s footage could present three totally different views if dubbed with three different sets of music. The preaching involved shouting, chanting and cries of “Allahu Akbar”, yet (we presumed, it was in Urdu) was peaceful. So far, we have been in a so-called ‘Islamist state’ for a week, yet seen nothing even close to terrorism, and the anti-West counter still sits firmly at zero.
[Ed. ‘Allahu akbar’ is Arabic and means ‘God is greatest’].
Rawalpindi, the third largest city in Pakistan, is one of immense history. With our tour guide Aasim, we were led through the streets and presented with a view of Pakistan that we had only seen from a car window previously.
The point of the tour was to understand Rawalpindi’s history, and how the city has changed. Aasim had seen the gradual progression and development of the city throughout his life, and I couldn’t help but think that his sorrow over Rawalpindi becoming more developed and leaving the past further behind is a cry of nostalgia. For a Westerner, we love visiting countries still with an abundance of historic culture, but these are people’s lives. While a man selling water from a goat skin bag makes a great picture for us, in reality it is somebody’s life.
I had a thought while on the roof of a hotel we were staying at, and looking down at a woman carrying a huge bag of clothes on her back across the street. Scurrying after her were two small children with torn clothes, presumably her own children. It made me think that Pakistan is at a point that England was once in. With children begging, men polishing shoes, and extreme poverty visible from a glance, it reminded me of Dickensian Britain. Perhaps a country has to go through great inequality before increased equality, and perhaps Pakistan is going through this now. But what the day showed me is that if we stay nostalgic for a time of great struggle, it leaves little room for social progression, and as I and others have found, Pakistan needs social progression.
Today we visited St Mary’s, a cross religious school that held students from faiths of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and more. It was the first time we have seen a mix of faiths interconnected so freely in Pakistan.
While at the school we had the task of creating a poster showing the positive side of religion. Both me and Rukia suggested the benefits of faith in society, with ideas such as coping with death, behaviour control and other similar ideas. However, the St Mary’s members of our group gave simplistic answers, like, “religion means you go to heaven” and “having faith means you live a better life”. Their answers sounded like the simple answers a child would give their Sunday school teacher, and it made me question the role of religion in an Islamic country. With 97% of the country being Muslim, does it mean that a lot of people blindly follow Islam, it being more of a social norm than a personal choice? This certainly suggested so to me.
Since here I have questioned the psychology of faith. Is a person more likely to recover from depression with the belief God is helping them out of it? In a country of poverty, accusation and a huge divide of classes I’m sure faith has proved very medicinal to the individual.
In my opinion, art is a form of expression that is unique to you only. If you create an art piece that reflects you, it is no-one but you that can discredit it.
Today, we went to the truck depot. The truck depot had a sense of community that I found overwhelming, and that made me overlook the superficial image of dirt and labour. Art for these people is a way of life. Whilst I’m sure they love their work, it is work for them, and artistic expression is part of the job.
For me, art is part creation, part post creation. There was satisfaction in the work done, and I feel that a job with an artistic input and output is far more satisfying than one with neither.
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