Trip to the Zoo: a Day of “Firsts”

Children's faces are blurred to protect their identity

On Friday, January 6, 2024, Peshawar’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) provided a state-of-the art hybrid bus that took 25 girls and 40 boys from Brighter Tomorrow, accompanied by two female and two male teachers, on a dedicated road trip to the Peshawar Zoo that lifted them high above the city and plunged them underground.

This excursion was another remarkable day of “firsts” for the child laborers, who are enrolled in Brighter Tomorrow’s literacy program.  

An almost aerial perspective of the city allowed them to see structures within the Bala-Hisaar Fort that were previously obscured by the fortress’s towering walls. The underground tunnels provided a unique subterranean experience. 

The children had their first encounter with an escalator at the Bus Bay and their first experience descending in an elevator. Escalators and elevators may be fundamental elements of contemporary living,  but in the city of Peshawar, they are limited to specific locations such as the Peshawar International Airport and shopping malls catering to the elite segment of society.  And, to the children’s delight, also to BRT stations.  

The sheer joy on the faces of these children as they ascended the escalator and descended in the elevator captured the profound impact of this novel experience.  The only stairs they were accustomed to were the ordinary steps in the Brighter Tomorrow school, which was the tallest building they had ever visited.  Most of their neighborhood was comprised of single-story houses. While they could catch glimpses of distant high rise buildings from the streets where they lived, those places were off limits.

 Upon the children’s arrival at the main gate of the Peshawar Zoo,  they were warmly welcomed by the Education Officer, Mr. Ijaz, and guided on an insightful tour.  

The children saw giraffes and tigers and bears and monkeys for the first time, and walked through the snake house, where they saw more different kinds of snake than they had imagined could exist.  After looking at the animals in their designed settings, the children were escorted to the zoo auditorium and shown wildlife videos showing closer views of the animals in their natural habitats. Being in an auditorium was another first as was watching a movie on a big screen. 

The impact was mesmerizing for the children, who had never before seen a large screen movie in a theater, but at most had caught glimpses of movies on small mobile screens in workshops or TVs in tea shops or the houses where they worked.   

Afterwards, the Education Officer held a quiz competition regarding animals and biodiversity – another first, in which the children actively participated.
Brighter tomorrow is a unique program that allows working children to achieve literacy and numeracy after eating a high calorie meal and teaches them resiliency and other crucial psychosocial skills. It is our joy to introduce these children to “firsts” that broaden their educational experience and prepare them to be successful despite the poverty and deprivation that has marked their early years.