LAHORE: Shagufta’s tuition class is busy studying, the only sound being that of the whirring fan above and the steady hum of the students reading in a low voice. Two of the children are recent school dropouts — brothers Sahil and Sajid — and till they find another school to go to, they will be studying here.
“They were being ostracised in school to the extent that it started to become mental torture for them,” says Shagufta. “They would often either skip school or not go at all. Then their mother took the help of her employer, who requested me to teach them so they don’t waste time while they look for a different school.”
This wasn’t a case of regular bullying. This was religiously motivated. Being the only Christian students in the school, the boys say they felt isolated.
“When the others realised we were different, they openly showed their disgust for us,” says 12-year-old Sajid. “One of them came up to me one day and said, ‘Get out of this school, we don’t want you around here.’ They would never talk to us.”
This is not a one-off case. Discrimination has been there in schools for decades, it seems.
Nazia, 34, remembers how she dropped out of her school in her small village of Hardai Pind near Sheikhupura. “It was an all-girls school and on every occasion possible they insisted on calling me ‘choorhi’ [pejorative term] and to say bad things about my religion. For this reason I stopped studying and today I can only read a little and write my name.” Nazia says that other Christians in her village also faced the same issue, because they were in a minority. More of them dropped out from school.