At last my village had Coeducation-school. First of its kind in the village in last 200 years (and before that village did not exist). So I was sent to the most modern and broad minded school of its time in the village.
Alas! I didn’t know the meaning of these two words at that time! Best thing about the school was that we had built it. Yes, we students were used as labor for the construction of boundary wall. And why would we refuse to help? After all, it was our social responsibility to stand by every person who decided to make improvements to this village.
After staying in school for few years (and falling in my first love in the second class), I was withdrawn from the school on the grounds that my teachers did not know how to write my name. Didn’t know it myself otherwise I would have told them. Obviously, no one wants to lose his first love due to spelling mistakes.
Here I was in the government school in the second class. Now I realize that this school gave me best of my childhood memories. There were new rules and traditions which were quite new to me. Specially, it was strange to sit on Taat (carpet) and it usually remained as dirty as it could be- never washed even once until I was there and there is a remote probability that these would be washed later on.
But it does not mean that we were dirty children who did not care at what they were sitting on! We were so responsible at that young age and used to dust our Taats regularly on monthly basis and even sometimes on fortnight basis and we never had to tell anyone about our cleanliness as it remained evident in the air for next half an hour.
It is worthy to mention here that many of our bureaucrats at higher levels have studied in such schools and they proudly call themselves “Taatians”.
Second best thing was the Takhti (a small piece of wood used as slate). More of the ink bought used to jump on our clothes than on Takhti. How? It’s still a mystery! But somehow it was true.
Takhti had to be washed after every use. School administration was so intelligent and had the ability to see future so vividly, that, they took this our need of water to teach us few good lessons of life by not installing tap in the school.
Result was that we were bound to go to nearby Dera to wash our Takhtis and to drink too. At Dera we learnt two important lessons. First was that the life is a competition and we can only wash our Takhtis if we can win against buffaloes already there. Surely, we made buffaloes wait for us in case we reached there early- it was true vice versa. Second was that how can we save time by constructing a small dam in front of tap so that we can wash so many Takhtis at a time.
Honestly, idea of power generation never came to our minds. One of the best predictions of the administration authorities was the current power shortages. So they decided to teach us like soldiers to live without electricity (I mean soldiers at war). Thanks to that policy, most of the students of the school of that time are living a happy life in such a load-shedding. It helped us learn how to use our Qamees as a fan and tissue paper at a time in summers-an efficient use of scarce resources.
Washrooms? These were considered a luxury so they decided to not spoil our character at such young age. The only washroom in school for 200 students, which must have been operative in ancient times, was never repaired. Consequently, we took all the nearby farms as our washroom.
We always had a great respect for the farmers for the generosity (only after reading matriculation level biology the reason for their generosity was clear).
Still, “the change” was coming at a ‘rapid’ rate. Before I left the primary school, a tap was installed (and diplomatic relations with buffaloes reinstated). And before I left high school, electricity was provided and fans were bought with help of the residents of the village.
Most of the schools in rural areas of Punjab (and in rest of provinces of Pakistan) have such deteriorated conditions (and elsewhere they are considered “bad” for the enslaved poor class) and our honourable chief minister announces “revolutionary steps” of distributing laptops! What if not sheer misunderstanding of the priorities and needs? Who can tell their lordships about what is required and what
Despite the odds, we are waiting for the time when students of rural areas of Pakistan will have the same facilities and opportunities as are available to students of Acheson and Beaconhouse. How sad it is we are waiting.