In 1995, 12-year-old Iqbal Masih was murdered by a ‘carpet-mafia’ after having escaped from bonded labour. For those who don’t know, at the age of four Masih was forced into child labour at a carpet factory after his mother could afford nothing else. When he ran away at the age of 10, his story was swept international media and he soon became a worldwide symbol for the fight against child labour.
Even after his death, Masih’s bravery, especially as someone who came from a difficult background, still lingers in the world. I happened to come across an anti-child labour protest around his death anniversary last year (April 16) all the way in Madrid.
Masih’s story is strangely not uncommon. Pakistan has had many children who have become symbols of courage, hope and perseverance making the country proud. Iqbal Masih, Arfa Karim and more recently Malala Yousufzai are some who have braved for ideals in a country filled with cynicism. They gave their all uncaring for fame and fortune and unknowing of the profound affect they would have on others. While these children have swept hearts and minds of the nation, our ‘adult’ elected politicians have failed countless times.
As adults, we lose our sense of wonder, hope and possibility. We become disillusioned, rational human beings weighing importance of a task with tangible outcomes to determine whether it is worth our own time. It is those who are still hold ideals and hope close to their hearts that sweep the world with their stories – the children.
If they are the ones becoming symbols of our ideals, why cannot we invest more in them? The ‘debate’ around Malala has circled the topic of education without talking about new education policies. We have yet to see governors say they will double the education budget, improve teacher training or invest in extra-curricular activities to let each child in this country achieve their full potential.
If it is these young people who are still developing their personalities showing the world what we believe in, the least people who have power could do is invest more in them. If not for their sake, for ours.