The deploring state of education in Pakistan
Pakistan is a country of many vices. One of the most cruel is the horrendous state of the education system that we put them through. When coupled with the economic pressures, understandably so, many lose their motivation to even finish high school and they ultimately, drop out. Unfortunately, the story of the ones who remain in the dysfunctional education system is no better. The privileges of relatively better education and subsequent job opportunities are reserved for the children of the upper-middle class and upper-class in the country.
Education seems not to be priority in the political agenda of the ruling parties in Pakistan. One is naturally forced to question the genuinity of any claims of the so-called political leaders for working towards the betterment of the country. For how can a country possibly progress when half of the population can’t even read or write and worse yet, lacks the ability of critical thinking. Maybe an uneducated and backward populace serves as an assurity of success at the ballot or it ensures blind and submissive compliance of the population. Either way, education gets the bare minimum attention of the so-called political leaders of our country and hence, is allocated a meagre amount out of the national budget.
Thereupon, weak infrastructure, under qualified teachers, flawed curriculum, absence of basic facilities like electricity and water are few of the many (much documented) problems that plague the education sector in the country. Despite all these problems, we have never seen education to come up as a major point of discussion and debate in the elections and generally, in the political discourse of the country. Instead, politicians are seen to stick to shameless antics like character assassination and leg-pulling of their political opponents. Although politicians are not famous for their ability to fulfil promises but the absence of any commitment to improve the education sector in the country removes any ray of hope that one would have.
The recent release of a video of a school principal beating up minor students in Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has managed to catch the attention of the social media and shaken up the otherwise numb consciousness of the country. The barbaric video of the headmaster hitting the young boys and girls with a stick sends chills down ones spine. Looking at the way education for youngsters is considered in developed countries like Germany and Finland, the contrast is simply gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. We are not only limiting the opportunities of children in Pakistan to apply for good jobs and strive for fulfilling careers by providing them poor quality of education but are also hampering their growth as a human beings by subjecting them to violence, neglect and abuse at such a young age.
It is highly unfortunate that living in the twenty first century, we still have to use our voices to plea to our government to focus on something as integral and vital as education. And appeal to the teachers and administrators in the education sector to not use their position of power to exploit, manipulate and victimise the students. The Chitral video is only a glimpse into the dark and harsh realities of what happens in the public schools in our country. While the condition in the private schools is also deteriorating at a fast pace but at large, the public schools are in worse condition. Having studied in a public school myself I am well aware of how suppressing and repressive our education system is. At every step, the system and everyone involved in it uses their authority to quench students ability to ask questions and to think for themselves. A distorted version of reality is fed to the students from a very young age which takes years of personal learning to overcome. Leaving provision of technical and quality education aside, many of the students are even subjected to emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of their teachers. Even when one overcomes all the hurdles and is one of the fortunate few to have access to higher education, the problems don’t end. There have been numerous reported cases of university teachers asking for personal and often sexual favours from students in return of good grades. In particular, female students are more often than not subjected to such behaviours.
Hence, it will not be an exaggeration to say that the education sector in Pakistan is corroded from bottom to the very top. This is to not to discredit the effort of hundreds and thousands of dedicated teachers who despite the endless obstacles, try to do justice to their profession and strive to provide good education to the students. However, given the magnitude of the problem, such efforts in isolation can not bring about change at a national level. A policy level change is required to bring about the much-needed systematic reform in the education sector in the country. Given that almost two-third of the population of Pakistan is under 30 years, it is cruel if at the behest of detached and apathetic political leadership of the country, we do not build enough pressure to ask for an educational reform and turn this ‘window of opportunity’ into an economic burden. The politicians failure to push up education in their political agenda is in fact, our failure to ask for it. Hence, it comes as no surprise why many disgruntled youngsters are easily manipulated by radical elements in the country and take up violent means to express their frustration. Even if they are not radicalised, without being equipped with essential modern day skills, they can’t possibly compete for employment opportunities at the increasingly globalised workplaces or simply lead fulfilling lives.
It is high time we realise that we do not have anyone else to blame for this situation, this is our own doing. By robbing our children of quality education and learning, we, ourselves, are failing our children and their generations to come.