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School in a Pakistani Public Park Helps Poor Children

A man in Pakistan who did not go to school as a child because he was too poor is now working to help children get an education.

It is estimated that Pakistan has 25 million children who do not go to school. That is the second-highest number in the world. Only Nigeria has more. Many Pakistani children must work to earn money for their families.

Mohammad Ayub was once one of those children. He is now a firefighter. He also operates a small school. VOA recently visited the school, in the capital Islamabad.

Ayub started with just one student in 1982. He saw a boy cleaning cars for days. He asked him: “Why don’t you go to school?”

The boy answered that his parents were dead and he had to work to help support his five brothers and three sisters. That affected Ayub. He was also an orphan and he, too, had five brothers and three sisters he worked to help support.

He says “when my father died, everyone who came to the funeral said they were sorry, but no one helped.”

He sold newspapers and did other work to earn enough money to pay school fees for his brothers and sisters.

Ayub wanted to help the young boy who washed cars, but he did not have enough money to pay the boy’s school fees. So he offered to teach him.

Today, Ayub teaches many children at his informal school in a public park. Some of the children attend other schools in the morning, but come to Ayub in the afternoon to get help with their homework.

Ayub has helped thousands of poor children since he began teaching. Many of them come from very poor areas near the park called slums.

“I used to particularly argue with kids who worked -- I used to ask girls ‘Why are you washing someone’s dishes or their clothes? Why don’t you study?’”

One of the children he urged to attend classes was Farhat Abbas. Ayub found him working with his friends about 12 years ago.

“He followed us back home. He told our parents he wanted to teach us and asked them to come check out his school.”

Today, Abbas is taking classes at a college and is helping Ayub.

While many children are out of school, those who do attend classes often get a poor quality education.

Information gathered by an aid group shows half of all Pakistani children in the 5th grade do not understand basic mathematics and cannot read a story in their language.

A policy group based in Islamabad reports Pakistan spends less on education than any other country in South Asia.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA Correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem reported this story from Islamabad. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

orphan – n. a child whose parents are dead

funeral – n. a ceremony held for a dead person

informal – adj. not official

park – n. a piece of public land in or near a city that is kept free of houses and other buildings and can be used for pleasure and exercise

slum – n. an area of a city where poor people live and the buildings are in bad condition

check out – v. to see; observe; inspect

basic – adj. forming or relating to the first or easiest part of something

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