I have often wondered why, despite the overwhelming practice of charity that Pakistanis so openheartedly adhere to, our society has not been able to break the barriers of economic disparity, where the majority is still surviving below the poverty line deprived of basic human rights such as education, healthcare, clean drinking water and so on.

Many are prone to blame the government for this state of affairs, since its corruption and incompetence are no more perceptions, but rather bitter truths mercilessly revealed in the past five years at the expense of the common man. One example of the sheer depravity of the present government and those past, was the lack of interest shown toward the most fundamental pillar of a nation aspiring toward development - education!

No effort for the alleviation of the human condition is effective, if the effort is unsustainable and, more importantly, does not equip the people concerned to affect a change in their lives themselves. Thus, all charity given to the poor ends up being consumed without any significant change in the economic condition of the present generation or the generations thereafter.

Educating a child from an impoverished background gives that child the means to break out of the poverty loop, which is handed down generation after generation.

The phenomenon of ghost schools is not new in Pakistan; this problem has exacerbated over the years rather than being resolved, primarily because the concerned authorities are well able to send their own children to the best private schools in the country or abroad.

The only reason why the public school system is effective in developed countries is because the child of the highest government official too goes to the same public school as others. There are no parallel syllabi creating a distinctive divide between those educated within a public school system and those within a private school system.  When there is vested interest in the success of the public school system, a concerted effort is not far behind.

In Pakistan, however, such criterion is non-existent what to say of being effective. Many schools that exist on paper are not even physically present. Of those that do exist, many are used for a number of purposes, none of which have anything to do with education. Still more are functional school buildings, but the teachers, who are paid by the exchequer to teach children in those schools, don’t have the decency to show up for work.

Not once does it occur to them that their actions are the root cause of why so many of our children do not get basic education, are forced into manual labour and without any professional qualification are doomed to a life of poverty, where effort will never match compensation. Thus, ending the aspirations, the dreams, the future of another human life.

The current probe into the business of ghost schools by the Supreme Court is a heartening development. Whether it will result in a drastic revamping of the public school system is hard to say, but even a single step in the right direction is progress, indeed.

Where private efforts such as those undertaken by Teach A Child (TAC) School System, Zindagi Trust, NUML, etc are making a significant impact on the lives of so many, imagine what the government with all its resources can achieve if only the right people are elected to represent us in the coming elections.

Through education alone can we hope to eliminate the evils, which plague our society today; sectarian violence, lawlessness, economic decline and, most importantly, development of a progressive national psyche.

At present to expect any advancement in this regard from the current political leadership is futile as well as ludicrous. So till the time, our general population attains the maturity required for making responsible democratic decisions through voting in the right people to power, the least we can do is contribute toward this cause individually.

Next time when we think of charity, let us put a little something aside to facilitate a school, to educate the child of our own domestic help, to buy books for children unable to afford their own. Each step in this direction starts a ripple whose impact will be felt for years to come by many. To provide sustenance for a starving family is great, indeed, but to equip them to be able to provide for themselves is the greatest turn you could serve anyone.

The best thing about this particular agenda is that one does not even need money to be of service to others; whereas most charity is the privilege of the affluent, educating someone else only requires for you to be educated yourself and your time. So many of our educated women, who choose to be housewives for one reason or another, can be an enormous resource in this regard; with their own children in schools and only intellectually regressive morning shows to while away the time, these women can do so much by committing themselves toward the education of even a single child. Someone once said that the measure of how well you spent your day, was the positive impact you made in someone else’s life in that day; I have come to realise that there is no greater truth than this.

No time is better than the present and no one can make a difference but you. God helps those who help themselves and this could not be more apt for Pakistan today. Do good, remain hopeful, change starts from each one of us.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: markazeyaqeen@gmail.com