Coconut Seller

Posted on January 9, 2008
Filed Under >Pervaiz Munir Alvi, Education, Society
Total Views: 31369

Pervaiz Munir Alvi

Traveling on the GT road some where near Hassan Abdal we pulled into this filling station. The tank was almost empty and had to be refilled. A moment later this child appeared at the car window. A beautiful child who could not be more than twelve years old. His face was devoid of any sign of cheerfulness that is generally associated with children of his age. While the car was being filled I decided to have a short conversation with this child. I asked him why he was not in school. His answer was simple. He does not go to school. “Why’ I asked again. “He does not” he repeated his answer and walked away from the car window and stood against the hedge looking the other way. That is when I took this snapping.

This child is no way unique. There are millions of small children in Pakistan like him that do not go to school and spend their day working at tea stalls, bicycle repair shops, as petty hawkers, cleaning boys and the job list goes on. I am posting this picture here on ATP to shake our collective conscience with the same question: Why this child does not go to school?

Is it that his parents do not want him to be educated? Is it that they can not afford for his education? Is it that there is no school near where he lives? What are the reasons that this child does not go to school? Almost all of my Pakistani well-off friends and relatives are forever ready to tell me how wonderfully their children are doing in school. I hear this endless talk about O level and A level. But how many of us, including myself are concerned about these children of lesser god. We could blame the government, system, politicians, mullahs, feudal lords and so forth and so on till we are blue in the face. But my question is that what we have done lately for these unfortunate children except exploiting their poverty and the system by employing them as domestic servants. I am not trying to single them out but from his book ‘Indus Journey’ I got tired of reading how Imran Khan went to Atchison College and Oxford to play cricket. How ‘Daughter of the East’ Benazir Bhutto went to Harvard and Oxford. When are we going to send this twelve years old coconut seller to school?

19 responses to “Coconut Seller”

  1. Zia Ahmed says:

    Might be this child would be supporting his home and, he would be the only earner in his family. If he will go to school Who will earn money for his family, if he goes to school who will pay his fee… ?


  2. Zareen Niazi says:

    I am involved in two projects that are helping in educating children from poor backgrounds. You can contribute in several ways.

    Visit the following website;

    Zareen Niazi

  3. Tina says:

    Did you buy a coconut from him? Why not? If not why not at least let the poor guy off without a “serious” talk? Why hurt his pride that way? Also I consider it an invasion of privacy to take someone’s picture without their permission; it brings to mind the whole “poor people safari” phenomenom of travel that has sprung up in America lately under the name of “charitable tourism” (a concept almost beneath mockery, it’s so awful). In most places you can combine your poor people safari with the more old-fashioned animal kind, or alternatively go for a shopping trip (again disguised as philanthropy) or lie for a week on the beach. You know how it is, looking at slum dwellers and taking snaps of them is hard work.

    If not for the name at the top I would believe it was a Western tourist who posted the pic and wrote the post. It is very typical of the outlook and attitude 0f a foreigner looking at the “poor little brown kids”. But then so very many Pakistanis are little more than outside observers in their own country. They see Pakistan through their compound gates and the windows of their air-conditioned cars and not much else.

    As others have noted, how can somebody who is already from Pakistan seriously ask why a kid hawking snacks at a gas station isn’t in school? Is it just because you wanted to hear his sad personal story? What would you have done about it if you’d heard it?

  4. Satyanas kismat ka, rona kiya naseeb ka
    Har saal fail hota hai bachha gareeb ka !

  5. Farrukh Shah Khan says:

    Aadil and all others,

    As we know there are 4 parallel systems of education working (or not working) in Pakistan.

    1. Public schools: with teachers not fully qualified or properly paid. School buildings are used for housing cattle in villages. The term “Ghost Schools” is coined for these schools.

    2. Private schools: very expensive. They are the money making machines for the school owners. Many parents who can barely afford the fees would make many sacrifices to send their children to these schools in order to build a better future for them.

    3. Religious schools: aka madrasas. These schools do not indulge in much of the worldly education. However, children of these schools do get free education, housing and food.

    4. NGO Schools: Many good ones have built these schools in the past 10 to 15 years. The Citizens’ Foundation (TCF) has built 455 schools in their 14 year history. Human Development Foundation (HDF) and Development in Literacy (DiL) are some I am working with locally. There are UN sponsored programs.

    If any of the ATP members feel for this kid and many millions more, then please find out more about these NGOs and then donate generously. We know we can not change options 1-3 easily but we can donate and support option 4 for the education of poor innocent children of Pakistan. Our future depends upon these children and on these NGOs.

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