Lahore is located in Punjab, a geographical region of South Asia, rich in cultural tradition, straddling the border between India and Pakistan. Although the rains are consistent only in the month of July, Punjab is a rich agricultural area thanks to the extensive irrigation made possible by the large river system that crosses it. Temperatures in Lahore are quite high. Very rarely in winter does it drop below 10°C and, starting from May, it is common to find temperatures above 42°C for several consecutive days.
Pakistan is not a quiet country. There are some problematic issues, such as political instability, terrorism, poverty, and internal tensions. The Kashmir question between India and Pakistan remains unresolved. Another knot is the sectarian tension between Shiites and Sunnis. Furthermore, neighbouring Afghanistan creates refugee and terrorist infiltration problems. The Islamic religion is practiced by 96.5% of the population. Christians are only 1.5%, roughly half Catholic and half Protestant. In Lahore, in the district of Youhanabad where the Salesian house stands, there are many Christians. However, being a small minority, Christians are considered to be of lesser importance and have few opportunities within society.
For everyone, Muslims and Christians alike, religion occupies a prominent place, religiosity is widespread, and religion permeates the whole of society. Another very beautiful feature of all of Pakistan is that the population is very young, with a low average age, so there is a high proportion of children and young people.
There are three Salesians based in Lahore. Fr Noble Lal is Rector of the Community and Principal of the Technical School. Fr Gabriel De Cruz Trejo follows the Salesian aspirants, teaches in the local seminary, and is the superior of the Delegation of Pakistan. Bro. Piero Ramello is a teacher in the school. Don Bosco Educational Society provides educational services both in formal education (New Don Bosco Higher Secondary School) and in technical education (Don Bosco Technical Centre). The latter offers a variety of vocational training programs as per the community needs to address the issue of unemployment among youth. With the Don Bosco Education project, Salesians are also providing quality education at low cost to the marginalized communities in Pakistan.
In Salesian services for girls, particular attention is paid to reducing early school-leaving. Unfortunately, due to the need to take care of the family, or to the spread of early and forced marriages, many girls abandon their studies long before the end of compulsory schooling. This takes place in the ethnic communities of the villages, but also in large urban centres such as Lahore, in the belief that dropping out of school to help the family or early marriage (often against the girl’s will) constitute a solution to economic poverty. For girls, Salesians in Pakistan carry out social promotion programs and training programs on rights with the aim of creating and spreading awareness and self-determination among young people. They work hard to encourage girls to continue their studies. They also organise courses to impart knowledge and skills aimed at learning a trade and thereby emancipating girls from the economic oppression exerted by adult men. Girls have fewer job opportunities, which is why it is urgent to promote education in all ways and also to support vocational training projects and job offers. In the words of one of these students: “If we study, we can have a brighter future.”
Although the school fees charged by the Salesians are very low, many families cannot afford them, as most are single-income families with many children. The local population is very poor, and cannot contribute to the girls’ education, so girls are in great need of support to complete their education and skills-training in order to become independent members of society.
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