The Ground Reality is Different


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.


7 thoughts on “The Ground Reality is Different

  1. Nice that you have picked up the conundrum quickly. As you spend a bit more time, you will hopefully see the even broader context. The kids you educate today often end up hating what they and their parents are doing right now for a living. This leaves the massive majority of such souls in a neither-here-nor-there fix, and ruins their lives. Besides, girls generally have a problem that is specific to them; communities they belong to don’t appreciate their value as ‘good’ wives and daughters-in-law. I join you in the lot that has no clear-cut answer to the issue. Just observations.


  2. I agree with everything you said. The dillema about educated girls not finding suitable match was there even in my days and I have seen it first hand. But still I wont ever chose to swap my education with anything else.


  3. I agree with you both. I myself have tried to educate two maids but to no avail. The girl currently working in our kitchen has become a misfit in her family because of the change she has embraced whilst living with us.


  4. I know atound my time there, in late 80’s and early 90’s, masses refuse to educate their daughters because of the dreams of a hero or “shahzada” coming to marry them & hence girls refusing to marry other males of their cast e.g. barbers, gardners, bakers, etc. (All of a sudden don’t these vocations start looking more rspectable in English). We in the U.S., are also coming to that point where saturation of learned youngsters without expected decent jobs, are going through frustration. This is a pretty discouraging situation. According to one of the maids there, “Baji am I crazy to waste my money and spent the time that she needs to learn home work to spoil her by sending her to school. Eventually, she has to do these house chores and roduce and raise kids.” Very practical approach towards life if you ask me. Believe it or not it makes sense to me.


  5. Well coming from an educator herself I will have to seriously think about this viewpoint. I am talking about basic education like to be able to read books and write agreements etc. Do basic math calculations etc. Some day to day stuff. Don’t they all need that.


  6. Yes she knows how to read a little Urdu but only speak English (that too a few words). We gave her basic Quran classes and taught her namaz. She is a practicing girl.


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