Asad, age 7, has been working for the past year at a machine shop where he assists the master craftsman and owner of the shop. He refers to his boss as the Ustad, meaning teacher. His job starts early in the morning and lasts till sunset. His job includes handing different tools to the Ustad, sanding and washing different parts, cleaning the shop, bringing tea from the local shop, taking groceries to the nearby home of the Ustad and bringing back the boss’s lunch.
At the shop there are no standard operating procedures, no protective gear, no safety standards or even any awareness of such things. Although the Ustad uses a vernier caliper, screw gauges, and a lathe machine requiring different tools and adjustments, he doesn’t read and can’t understand what is written on the tools. For him the numbers are different signs that he has memorized over the years. For that reason he still has to work on an old machine that uses inches despite the fact that Pakistan switched to the metric system in the 1970s.
Asad realizes that when he learns how to read and write, and how to count and do basic math with Brighter Tomorrow, he won’t have to rely on out-of-date equipment using signs memorized long ago like his teacher.