“Why would I want an education? What is the benefit of being literate? Life is what we spend here,” said Bakht Zada, 14, a shepherd, while grazing his sheep in Balokaley Kandak valley.
Unaware of the importance of education, Bakht Zada who lives in Nariband hamlet, has been grazing his sheep and goats since the age of six.
The majority of residents in Nariband are herdsmen who fatten their animals for the month of Eidul Azha.
“I have been to Mingora thrice in my life, with my father to a cattle fair to sell sheep but there is too much hustle and bustle which tires me,” he said.
If he does not appreciate the importance of an education, it is because there is zero per cent literacy in his hamlet.
“I go to the mosque for religious education along with other children. But I don’t want an English education because people say it misleads children,” Bakht Zada added.
Children in Nariband are strangers to computers, internet and mobile phones and are effectively cut off from the rest of the world. They play indigenous games while their animals graze in the meadows.
Bakht Zada, escorts his sheep and goats along with his friends for grazing early in the morning and gathers them to take back home in the evening.
Khan Zeb, 16, who is married and has two children, also takes his sheep to the meadows early morning. He sits on a huge rock eyeing his herd as the goats munch on the grass.
“I work with my father in the fields and go to Punjab in the harvest season for 20 days every year, where we earn up to Rs800,” he told The Express Tribune.
There is no electricity in their valley, no road network or water supply. There are no schools, nor even a single dispensary, but the children look happy as they run after their herds in the lush green valley.
“Our yearly yield is sufficient to cater to the needs of our seven-member family,” Zeb said.
The valley is located some 20 kilometres from Mingora, seat of the Gandhara Civilization.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2012.
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