Invitation to Mission in Pakistan Reflection Day 6

21st August 2017 - by Nathalie Marytsch

2017-08-12 07.35.43

A small group from this country is spending a few days in Pakistan on a learning experience. Here Henrietta Cullinan, one one the participants, shares some reflections of the group’s journey

The four of us spent a full day in Hyderabad, with Fr Liam, Columban and Danish, a Columban co-worker, visiting two schools and a catechist in the morning and in the afternoon, Latifabad unit N0.6 where we spoke to a lawyer working for bonded labourers, followed by a visit to St. John Arif  Church, where a Columban sister runs a project for Christian children who need extra support at school. It’s a sort of homework club. The students put on an Independence Day show, our fourth in three days, followed by food. Sitting in the Kali Mori school office, with the first round of tea and biscuits of the day, we heard the headmaster tell us how difficult it was to keep the school going financially. He clicked through the columns of a spreadsheet as he talked, seeing how many months of fees that were owing. The pupils are the children of day labourers who can’t always get work, so the fees don’t come in which means he then can’t pay the teachers. The teachers have to be very dedicated or else they move on and get replaced with teachers of poor quality.

At the huge girl’s school, St Mary’s High School, which is where Benazir Bhutto went, we had our second round of cake and drinks. The headmistress told us that a large proportion of the girls are Muslim but she was hoping to offer more bursaries for poor Christian girls. This huge school is a bit like a Catholic public school in the UK. The headmistress told us quite openly that the profits all go to her order. She tells us the Muslim parents prefer her school as the students and staff are all honest, no one cheats in exams. The timetable was on the wall, in a giant wooden fame with the lessons on cards, that looked as if it hadn’t changed for years. Walking through the cool, polished corridors of St Mary’s High School, seeing the teenage girls studying, destined to be doctors, was quite a different experience from our time in Badin. The students and staff all speak English, they arrive in taxis. It is an elite school. All over the school there were servants to guide, look after the doors and corridors. Then there were a few steps, but in the unbearable heat, they felt like a hundred steps, into the cathedral precinct next door where we learnt how the traditional water coolers work, the huge stone jars filled with layers of different grades of sand to filter the water and make it safe to drink, or at least safer.

We travelled between places by rickshaw. On the first journey the driver had to stop and remind me to pick up my ‘duppatta’ (scarf) After that I was careful to make sure all the floating parts of my attire were well tucked in, otherwise I could be another Isadora Duncan. Three of us crammed into the shelf-like seat, covered in shiny plastic. I felt as if I was going to slide out. The weight of us western passengers slowed the rickshaw right down as it struggled up the hills but as soon as it picked up speed again, sailing over the flyovers, past a lake, past the giant painted bill boards saying TOLET which looked to me like ‘toilet’ and made me chuckle, inside of course, it was a real thrill.