Everyday Maasi Hasina and her daughter Shaista come and clean my home. Shaista is 10 and quitted school in 3rd grade to work with her mom. Hasina’s husband lives with his keep for last 8 years and barely comes to meet the family. Yet he manages to produce children with Hasina. She has 3 children 11 year old boy who baby-sits the 3 year old while Hasina and Shaista work as maid. Together they work 8 hrs a day in 5 different homes and make decent amount for Maasi standards.
Reading so far if you feel bad for them and angered at women like me to employ child labor, take a step back and first listen to this. I have offered multiple times to home school the girl, free of charge. But the Mom is not willing to relinquish the girls’ help. She says the girl is her right hand and she wont be able to pull 8 hrs a day by herself. I even offered that if the girl stays with me I will prepare her for the famous TCF schools for next year but nope. I guess to convince her, I will have to not only replace 50% of their combined income but also pay for girl’s expenses and school fee etc. This of course I can’t afford and I am just an example in the system. There are many like me.
So my solution is to let them continue working and just teach as much as I can 15 minutes a day. Slowly and gradually they both are showing interest in learning and believe me it’s a very rewarding feeling for me. I don’t know how long I will be here in Pakistan, but if I can ignite a passion for learning in them, at least I have made a dent.
Coming from the western society and after reading the book “The Help” and watching Mini’s brilliant performance I was moved for the maasis (maids) of Pakistan. But The Ground Reality is Different. The maasis don’t want to read as much as they want to watch TV. If the affluent decide to do away with The Help they might end up on streets begging. At least they are providing them with respectable work. Not just salary, their food and clothing is also free. And everyone I know is very polite and understanding with them.
There are two ways of solving a problem; from outside the system meaning revolution or wok within the system to make it better. I guess, the affluent in this case are working with the have-nots from within the system. I am not trying to justify it but honestly I don’t have the solution. Just like you I am thinking too. And what about the 11 year old boy who just looks after the younger brother. What kind of company is he keeping???
Another barrier in the way of learning is the popular belief that learning to read Quran is enough. Whenever I ask a maasi if they know how to read and write, the response is “I have / am learning to read the Quran”. This mindset has grown over the last 20 years with the introduction of madarsas in the days of Ziaul Haq. We need to reverse engineer this mind set but until that time I can only educate one maasi at a time…or at least try.