As part of the three day training at Ilm-o-Hunar Foundation (IHF) auditorium for the ASER data collection in district Vehari, I along with my team member Rao Irfan Khan, took training session as a master trainer. First day training sessions were based on a detailed account of how the survey would be conducted; the assessment tools used and the kind of data to be collected.
On the second day of the training, the participants were taken to a village near Vehari as per the plan and training agenda. We first visited a government primary school. After completing mock practice in the school and doing sampling of 20 households, we started the household survey. We experienced a very interesting story there.
Faisal regularly plays with his friends in 11/WB village located near Vehari. He never went to school till he was old enough to work in a nearby auto workshop. His story resonates with the accounts of similar out of school children of his village who are forced to quit school in order to make earnings for their families. When we entered the village and started moving towards the houses, kids ran up to us in excitement of what we had to offer to them. With intrigue, they looked at the pile of survey instruments we were holding. As per our agenda, we began surveying the children. Faisal appeared to be very reluctant in the beginning. He refused to answer our questions but later on, when he saw other kids enjoying the ASER assessment, he called in his mother. His mother was uneducated and asked us if were filling (“Mardam Shumarri” )census forms? When we told her our purpose is to assess basic literacy and numeracy of these children, she refused to participate. It was after a great deal of convincing that she sat down and told Faisal to answer the questions.
Faisal, who was never enrolled in any type of school or educational institute, but was able to read letters in Urdu and English and was able to recognize 99-100 numbers. Happily, I told his mother, “Your kid is very bright. Faisal has never been to school yet he is able to read letters. Please do send him to school." His mother refused. “It’s really hard for us to survive. I thought that you are here for census. Of course I want my children to go to school but I cannot afford this. If you really want to do something, please ask someone to help us." We instantly left for Ilm-o-Hunar Foundation (IHF) office with faisal’s mother and had a meeting with their regional head. He acknowledged ASER efforts for reaching out to remotest parts and committed that he will support such households so that their children can go to school. The parents and officers from the IHF were surprised that such a noble act can be done with such conviction. This narrative is an example of how ASER is reaching out to every part of society for spreading the light of education.