From Cotton Fields to School

Tuesday 15 August 2017


Jameela is a 12 year old girl who lives in the village Nawab Khan Bhatti of District Shaheed Benazirabad, Sindh. Jameela’s father is a government servant and earns around PKR 20,000 (approximately USD 200) per month. His monthly income is relatively good but not enough to meet the expenses of his joint family of nine members.

Overall, the awareness level regarding education in Jameela’s village was very low. She was enrolled in Government Primary School in her village where she completed grade 2. However, when Jameela was promoted to class 3, her family took her out of school to help them in the fields for cotton picking.

Pakistan is considered the fourth largest producer of cotton in the world, with it being responsible for 9% of the total global cotton production. But regrettably, children as young as 10 years in Pakistan have been forced to pick cotton under appalling conditions each harvest season. Children, particularly girls, usually work whole day during the sowing and picking seasons. As per a recent survey conducted by Save the Children in two cotton growing districts, child labour frequency rate in District Shaheed Benazirabad, Sindh is 50% and in District Lodhran, Punjab is 43%.

Jameela is also one of the affected girls and was forced into child labour, forcing her to drop out of school. Her father wanted his children, including Jameela, to help their mother and uncle in cotton fields. Jameela’s family was engaged in cotton picking labour and earned small amount of money in the season. Jameela, among her four siblings, was most interested in getting educated but this was very difficult as she spent most of her time in cotton fields during harvest and helped her mother in daily routine work in off-season.

In August 2015, Save the Children's CHAON project team formed Community Organisations (COs) and also established Child Clubs (CCs) for both boys and girls in the village. Community Organisation mobilised the community for education of children. The team started arranging child club meetings where Jameela participated as an active club member. She continued attending club meetings arranged on monthly basis where she learnt the importance of education, expressing thoughts, rights of children, hope, ambitions and communication skills. A female member of the team had a session with Jameela as well in which she showed keen interest to continue her studies. The CO played a pivotal role in raising awareness and convincing her parents to send her to school again.

The CHAON project team also established an Accelerated Learning Center (ALC) in Nawab Khan Bhatti. The main objective of ALCs is to provide accelerated education to out-of-school and working children and main stream them in regular schools. The program staff arranged a special meeting with Jameela’s father and convinced him to send Jameela to the ALC in evening. Her father agreed and re-enrolled her in class 3 at the ALC. She completed her grade 4 and 5 within one year as ALC arranged special classes of 6 month session after which Jameela was mainstreamed in a formal government school. She is now enrolled in 6th class in Government Secondary School in her village. She attends school regularly and is committed to complete her education with her family’s willingness and support.

“I completed my education till the 2nd grade and I am interested in education but my family wanted me to help them in labour, cotton picking and other domestic work therefore I had to leave my education after class two. The skin on my fingers got damaged by picking cotton and I felt very bad whenever I glanced at my hands. When an ALC started functioning in my village, I was able to continue my education again and I am now in class six. Now my family does not force me into labour anymore in the cotton fields. I want to be a doctor after completing my education,” adds Jameela.