When most nine-year-olds are worried about what snack to eat and which toys they want, Rukhsana is already focused on her future.
The class-three student wants to become a teacher and, to become one, she helps her mother scrub pots and sweep the floors in peoples’ homes.
A day in the life of Rukhsana
Her day starts at 6am when she goes to a neighbour’s house to learn how to read the Holy Quran. “After that I rush back home to get ready and leave for school,” she said. One of the houses that her mother works at is close to her school so Rukhsana joins her mother as soon as school ends. Since her mother suffers from migraine, Rukhsana helps share her burden.
In between these chores, Rukhsana manages to complete her homework. The mother-daughter duo run these chores at four different houses and it is nearly dusk by the time they reach home.
“Sometimes, I help other children in the neighbourhood complete their homework,” she said proudly. This makes her father, Noor Muhammad, very proud. “I have never been to school but I want my daughter to complete her education and become a teacher.”
Determined to fight
The nine-year-old girl has learned from her brother’s experience. “My elder brother left school right after he finished class two and now he’s working as a helper at a tailoring shop,” she said, adding that she does not want to follow his path and end up working as domestic help. “I want to become a teacher and mitigate the sufferings of my parents.”
Her father isn’t able to earn enough from his kiosk. “My mother and I earn a little more than Rs7,000 a month, which is quite insufficient to feed a family of seven,” she said.
Her mother, Aasia, admitted that she depends on Rukhsana to complete her job but she is ready to bear all her school expenses. “My parents took me out of school after I completed primary level,” she said, adding that she will do her best to help Rukhsana achieve her goals. “I want her to lead a respectable life, which is only possible when she completes her education.”
Rukhsana’s class teacher, Nighat, also calls her one of the best students in class. “I don’t know how she manages to complete her homework with all the work she does?” she wondered before wishing her success. The teacher regretted that such children are forced to work even though child labour is prohibited.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2015.