Dear Auntie,
I am a 17-year-old student living in Karachi with my brother and sister. It has been seven months since our parents died in a car accident and, since then, my elder brother was left to take care of us with the little money that our parents have left us. My brother is negligent towards his responsibilities and wastes the money on his own luxuries. Sometimes he even forgets to pay my college fees and utility bills and I have to beg him to pay the bills. In order to meet ends, I am working in a nearby shop, but that is not enough and it also affects my studies. I fear that he will finish off the money and I will have to leave my college. I am worried that I will end up on the street. Please help.

Dear Abused,
My heart goes out to you and your family. Is there no adult in your extended family that you and your siblings can trust and count on? Maybe there is an uncle, aunt or even a grandparent who can guide you, if not take on full guardianship responsibilities.

I suggest you ask your siblings to also read the response to this. Even though you are angry at your brother, please try to understand his situation also. He is also probably very young and new to this. He is probably overwhelmed by the responsibilities he is suddenly faced with. And he must be making mistakes. That is a given. Anyone in this situation, regardless of his or her age, if suddenly saddled with responsibility, will be scared and make mistakes. Your brother probably feels very alone and needs your support and understanding. Even if you are angry at any of your siblings, take a moment to stand in his or her shoes and understand what they are going through.    

It is very important that all three of you keep communication channels open. You only have each other, and this could go two ways. You can bond during this difficult period, act as a team and face everything together. Or you can fight amongst yourselves and end up alone, with no one by your side. No one will suggest you do the latter. It is not an option.

‘My brother is squandering money from a family fund’

The three of you need to sit down together and have this conversation in which you let each other know that you are in this together. It is a difficult time and each of you is trying their best. I don’t know how old your sister is, but how your parents’ money is being used should be a collective decision. Also resist the urge to attack each other when you don’t agree. I know the urge to attack the other can feel uncontrollable, but you have to curb it. Try and understand where your sibling is coming from and calmly explain why you think it will not work. I know all three of you are very young, but all of you should now start thinking about consequences before you speak and control your anger. Have compassion for each other.

Depending on how much money your parents have left behind, please seek advice on investing it, which can give your family regular monthly income and lessen the financial burden somewhat. Is your brother working? If he isn’t, help him look for work. Look for other avenues to earn money. You have had a difficult start in life, but if the three of you stick together through thick and thin, life will get better.

Can the educational institutions you are enrolled in consider giving you scholarships? You won’t know till you ask for it. So approach your institutions for scholarships, so your family’s tuition expenses are taken care of. Many educational institutions do have policies for students in difficult situations.

Explore other avenues to lower your expenses, and stay focused on your education and any work opportunity that may come your way. Also understand that you and the siblings will make mistakes and that is all part of the learning experience. Most importantly, stick together and keep the faith. I pray your troubles are eased.

Auntie will not reply privately to any query. Please send concise queries to:

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 17th, 2020