Our Struggle: ‘My parents sacrificed everything so that I could go to university’

Our Struggle: ‘My parents sacrificed everything so that I could go to university’

Haider Butt

I was born in a poor household in a working class neighbourhood. It is adjacent to an industrial area so our neighbours were mostly factory workers and their families. My father was a trade unionist and a labour leader. We didn’t have a lot of money in our house, but my father’s social and political life earned us respect and dignity among the people in our town. Still, respect does not put food on the table and I never really experienced financial stability in my home. My mother is a housewife: her unpaid, unrecognised and uncelebrated labour was perhaps the only thing that made our home liveable.

My parents, like most people, wanted me to have quality education. We lived in a small town but they sent me to one of the best schools there. By enforcing a combination of love and discipline, they made sure I got good marks throughout my school days. My friends from the neighbourhood went to public schools and dropped out in a few years. Very few completed their primary education.

Due to the financial conditions at home, sometimes it became really difficult for my parents to pay my tuition fees. This caused me inexplicable pain. I developed an inferiority complex, often losing confidence in myself. But it was always the love of mother and encouragement of my father that uplifted my spirits and morale. I passed matriculation exams with good marks, even though I didn’t achieve the score my parents and I desired.

I applied to a prestigious institution for higher education: Government College University in Lahore. I was shortlisted but my parents didn’t have enough money to pay my fees. I stayed silent but I began to despise the world. I hated everything. I saw my mother crying while trying hard to hide her tears. My father asked a friend to pay my fees and I secured admission. Despite all this, my parents never imposed any ‘subjects’ on me: they just wanted me to read. They let me choose what I wanted to read.

This was the time when my two younger brothers also started school. My parents were unable to provide them with quality education. My father earned a very meagre amount despite all the hard work he did. In poor households, providing all children quality education is often just a dream – it cannot be turned into reality. So the future of other children future is sacrificed for one child’s education. Because parents can’t afford educating all their children, and this system is so ruthless that it doesn’t care. The pursuit of knowledge, instead of being a fundamental right, has become a luxury which only the rich can afford. I lived with this guilt and I’m still living with it.

Government College was a completely different world for me. I met many different kinds of people there. I got the opportunity to interact with books and intelligent people. I met some teachers who opened my mind to unconventional ideas that shook my worldview.

My parents never stopped me from learning and questioning. There were so many other things happening at the same time. I saw, observed and experienced gross inequalities. Sometimes I could not relate to my class fellows. I felt so alienated. This made me hate everything, including myself and my parents. Later, I realised that this was the system that perpetuates these inequalities and maintain class hierarchies. Despite all these hardships, my parents, especially my mother, held me close always and took care of my needs.

From time to time, I wondered if it was better to quit studies. My parents always discouraged me from thinking about quitting. They gave me many chances. When I went to university, I saw that my parents were happy. Somehow, they managed my first fee. But my younger brothers were not doing well in studies due to lack of care and resources. This made my parents anxious and it made me feel guilty.

In university, I got a chance to read books. I got time to sit with my friends and discuss things. My own circumstances and the environment around me radicalized me. Life of my people around me was miserable. They couldn’t afford two meals a day. In contrast, what I saw in cafes, malls and cinemas was a completely different life. I joined politics. I started walking down the path that my father had followed for decades. I made a promise to myself that I would fight for my people, for myself, for my parents and for my young brothers. For my people, so that they could have a life of dignity one day. For myself and my dreams; for my parents so that no any other parent would have to go through this all their entire lives for their children’s education; for my younger brothers and millions like them so that they could be given free and quality education, one day.

6 thoughts on “Our Struggle: ‘My parents sacrificed everything so that I could go to university’”

  1. Aaye haye.. but shab en sb bato ka andaza mujy hamesha se rha. Lkn ma ne kabhi ye sb batein es liye apk samny discus nahi ki kio k mujy hamesha lagta tha k ye sb chezin insan k upar azmaish hain , or ap k samny agr ye sb batein meri ksi anjan harkat se apko feel ho jati meri trf se to shaid , meri liye es bhari koi zilat ki batein na thi..
    Ma ne apk sath gcu ma bht wakt guzra hai. Or phr from ravian to ravian and then old ravian .aisa he hai k muhbat crush se ho jaye or phr crush b maan jayein 🤪

    Gc chesi or chesii .. song was quite rememberable

    Or phr kaleem randhwa rhy ga😃

    Khair but shb ap hmry ustad hain
    Allah apko khudh rkkhein Ameen soum Ameen

  2. I am completely honored to have friends like you by the struggles you have put to rise and never fall to the system and to do what couldn’t be done by anyone. The least I can add is that this system must questioned for the better cause. For the cause of the people who are daily wagers and can stand very hardly to the ongoing circumstances created by these elitists. You are our proud and we are all so proud of you.

    This story is not only your storily, My dear Comrade. The story you narrated is of every lower class children who spend their lives tense and are truly worried about their very basic human rights. May we overcome the system that deprive us of our all due human rights!

  3. How similar things are in India. Many struggle to afford college education, even though there are some quality subsidised colleges. Salutes to your struggle. May you succeed both personally, professionally and in your political goals. Incidentally, my father did his MA at Govt College Lahore in pre Partition times!

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