The teenage girls at a local wedding were in their element: Hennaed hands and glass bangles, hennaed hair and makeup, jewellery and extravagant joras, cold drinks, tea, a magnificent buffet spread, sweets and gossip galore. They floated around, slim and elegant, gleaming hair hanging to their narrow waists, innocent faces glowing with joy. They shared an urge to hug the bride, soak up each and every single detail of her hair, makeup, jewellery and outfits and in every single pair of eyes lurked a fairytale dream of what it would be like when it is their turn. Their wedding day is all they have to anticipate in this life, nothing before or after, except perhaps the birth of their first child, will measure up to their nave expectations. Life beginsand endswith marriageas does youth, health and in many cases happiness too. These rural debutantes are counted on the marriage market from the day they reach puberty, if not before and their training, right from the time they are old enough to help in the kitchen and with other household chores, is all geared towards satisfying their future husband and all his family members. The sad thing is that even though some of them have gone through a reasonable amount of schooling, a few of them excelling in their studies, school and education are seen as no more than a game, a chore to be gone through in order to 'come of age. Whatever it is that theyve learnt is rarely applicable to the confines of their narrow future and has no context in their equally narrow past. Basically, school is just a way of passing time in something other than the household chores they would have to do otherwise and often end up doing anyway when school is out for the day. The little knowledge they glean of subjects such as Geography, Physics, Maths, English and Pakistan Studies in no way prepares them for a life of drudgery chained to the kitchen sink and, even less so when the proverbial sink is nothing more than an outside tap or, in some cases, the nearest stream/river bank, yet this is all that millions of young Pakistani women have to look forward to which is one of the sad reasons they dont take school seriously - neither do their parents which is the root cause of countless educational problems. Completely uneducated parents or, if they happen to be lucky, parents with a smattering of knowledge, see no good reason other than that the law specifies it, that their daughters should be educated at all and even their sons are rarely encouraged to strive for betterment which is why rural poverty of mind is highly unlikely to become a thing of the past any time soon. Their mothers take inordinate pride in their simple homes, rarely venturing far from the local vicinity and fathers perform whatever menial tasks they can in order to earn their daily bread: neither understand why anything should be any different for their offspring. This mental stagnation, largely unchanged for generations other than the advent of electricity and the occasional television or fridge, blinds people to anything other than the immediacy of their stunted lives. Happy enough they may be, adaptable they are not and those rare individuals who struggle against this deep-rooted tradition are ostracised completely. Change is feared, tradition is all there is and as the world around them slowly evolves, they remain static until envy creeps in and the cup of life turns bitter. When this state of affairs comes to pass, however, it is one in a hundred, or more, who realises that the key to a better life lies in education but then, judging by purely local standards, the educationalists themselves leave so much to be desired that one can understand parents lack of faith in this particular system. Rural teachers, on the whole although there must be exceptions, are pretty poor in mind themselves partially due to the fact that they too were raised inside the straitjacketed confines of localised traditions. They know full well that their students, particularly girls, are unlikely to do anything with the little knowledge dished out by rote so why waste any effort? The sorry state of education throughout the country is largely due to an across-the-board reluctance to change, compounded by low salaries for teaching staff and dreadful school facilities if any. The old adage, If you pay peanuts, you only get monkeys is shockingly relevant to the teaching profession, particularly in rural areas. What can youngsters learn from staff who often have little more knowledge than their students and, if they bother to take classes at all, would rather gossip than teach? Until and unless, the entire educational system is given a thorough shake-up, salaries increased to attract real professionals and parents made aware of the importance of learning, youngsters will continue to treat school as a joke and entire communities will remain chained to an inequitable past where the drive for betterment simply does not exist. The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist.