“My favourite Bible characters are Enoch, Joseph and Moses. I like to play hockey and also General Knowledge classes,” five-year-old Estishna excitedly told us. He is studying hard and is now second in his class at a Barnabas supported school in Pakistan.
Estishna’s parents are delighted and “very thankful to God” for their son’s progress.
A stark contrast
Living in one of the worst slum areas of Islamabad, Estishna’s father, Sohail, a sanitary worker, could only dream of sending his son to school on his meagre wages. His wife Nadia works as a maid, a difficult and sometimes dangerous job for Christian women in Pakistan, who are vulnerable to abuse.
Freed from stress and bullying
Akash is twelve and he should be in Class 7 at school, but he is still in Class 2. Because he is a Christian boy he was not allowed to eat or drink with Muslim children at his non-Christian school. He was bullied so badly that he was often too afraid to go to school and fell behind in his lessons.
But Akash is not ashamed to sit with much younger children in class. Now free of stress and harassment, he is rapidly catching up on his education at his new Barnabas supported Christian-run school.
Violence a whisper away
The shadow of false accusations of “blasphemy” from Muslims hangs over the vulnerable Christian community. Mob violence, life imprisonment or even a death sentence are only a whisper way.
Many Christians in Pakistan have been trapped in a desperate cycle of poverty and illiteracy for generations. Most can only get dangerous and dirty sanitary jobs – cleaning sewers or sweeping streets.
Despised and living at the very lowest level of society, they are often considered “unclean” by their Muslim neighbours who contemptuously call them chuhra (sweepers).
Vulnerable widows and their little ones
Kusar’s husband died of a fever, leaving her to somehow support their four children alone. The children had to give up school. Scraping by on an extremely low income of just £1.00 ($1.30; €1.15) a day as a farm worker, Kusar struggled to feed her family let alone afford school fees.
Widows in Pakistan are very vulnerable. They have lost the respected place in society of a married woman, as well as their husband’s protection and his earnings.
With Barnabas’ support, Kusar’s daughters Nida (14) and Saniya (13), and sons Rahal (11) and Rohad (10) have all returned to school.
You can give them hope and a future
Barnabas supports 124 Christian schools across Pakistan giving hope and a future to thousands of children.
£9 ($12.00; €10.50) is a typical* cost to support a Pakistani child in school for a month including books and learning materials.
Will you help to break the chain of illiteracy and poverty for a Christian child and their downtrodden community?
*Costs vary with region, age of children and other factors.