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Indus Valley School of Learning: The school which teaches Humanism

On Pakistan Day, I was invited by the Indus Valley School of Learning in Rawalpindi. I tweeted about my visit and the pleasant experience. There is so much about Pakistan that remains invisible – many people who are working hard to make it a plural and tolerant place. Whilst I complain about our […]

Policy paralysis haunts our security

By Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s government has appointed a new committee to conduct ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban. The old committee, with journalists acting as peace-brokers, has been replaced by a coterie of bureaucrats who, in spite of their solid credentials, are likely to be men without a mandate. The talks between the TTP and the government in Islamabad will remain in a flux as the right-wing politicians most keen to engage with them still refuse to deliver on what they have sold to the general public — that you can actually negotiate with groups that have killed 50,000 Pakistanis including over 4,000 security personnel. Why do the government’s peace committees have no politician in them?

A recent report by The Wall Street Journal stated that the Pakistan Army has lost almost twice as many soldiers in the conflict with Taliban fighters as the United States (March 10, 2014). Yet, the civilian government and the army are opting for negotiations. This baffles plain logic unless there is a greater strategy at work. The civilian leadership seems split as the interior minister defends the TTP, while the defence minister warns of a military operation. At the same time, most of the demands put forward by the TTP can only be met if the military agrees to deliver on them. Thus, the future of talks remains dogged by this inherent divergence in the power structure within Pakistan. […]

Paradise lost

Raza Rumi narrates two tales of radicalization

 

Paradise lost

 

Writing about domestic help is distasteful as it means Pakistan’s obsession with ‘servants’ crosses the comfort zones of living rooms and travels into the printed lines. With much trepidation I plan to tell the readers about my own experience with a young helper who arrived from Pakistan’s Hazara area into my home a few years ago. Jabbar, a school dropout, had ambitions from day one and I spent the first few months convincing him that to liberate himself from a life-long career of domestic drudgery he would need to complete his education.

In my great moment of overcoming the middle class guilt, I found Jabbar a tutor and his formal education was resumed. He completed his Matriculation and Intermediate diplomas as a private school and did reasonably well given his circumstances and initial schooling. These days, he is enrolled as a graduate student and hopefully will find a better job than servicing my household needs. […]

Pakistan: A transitional polity

By Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s existentialist crisis is no longer a strictly Pakistani issue. Its potential repercussions have emerged as a cornerstone of global debates on regional stability and international concerns on terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The clichés on Pakistan’s disintegration and meltdown have also been done to death in the international media and policy brigades across the world. Perhaps, what the world has not yet fully comprehended is that Pakistan is essentially a transitional country where the old order is crumbling, giving way to a newer society that is grappling with geostrategic compulsions, domestic violence and a post-colonial state which refuses to realign its structures and priorities to a ‘new’ Pakistan.

To begin with, never in Pakistan’s history have so many women been active in the public spheres: from higher education to the workforce and from subaltern resistance movements to national politics. The two leading public sector universities i.e. the Karachi and Punjab Universities respectively, cater to a majority of female students. It is no coincidence that women parliamentarians are far more active in the national assembly and senate and not even shy of resisting patriarchy and clergy in their public roles. Increasingly, urban Pakistan is shedding its traditional conservatism by creating space for women’s inclusion in the media, and other segments of the services sector (also the largest contributing chunk of the GDP). […]

May 19th, 2011|Personal|5 Comments

Our textbooks and the lies they teach

By Raza Rumi

Due to the 18th Amendment, a momentous shift in Pakistan’s governance arrangements is taking place through a politically mediated and largely consensual manner. The federal government is being trimmed and 10 ministries have already been devolved to the provinces. A key development pertains to the devolution of education — lock, stock and barrel — to the provinces. Most notably, the odious era of setting poisonous, centralised curricula in the name of a ‘martial’ nationalism is finally over. Whether the past practices of turning Pakistan into a jihad project will end is uncertain, unless the provinces take the initiative and reverse the regrettable trajectory of the past.

Pakistani textbooks have preached falsehoods, hatred and bigotry. They have constructed most non-Muslims, especially Hindus, as evil and primordial enemies, glorified military dictatorships and omitted references to our great betrayal of the Bengali brothers and sisters who were the founders and owners of the Pakistan movement. It is time to correct these wrongs. […]

‘Reforming’ the education system

By Raza Rumi

Pakistani students sit inside and on top of a rickshaw heading to their schools in Muzaffargarh in Punjab province, Pakistan, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. AP Photo

The recent debates on education have also highlighted how the education sector is not receiving its due compared to say defence, infrastructure and other expenditures made by the government. However, the discussion has yet to move to the most important area i.e. quality of schools and what sort of learning are they providing?

The task of reforming the education system is huge, complex and some would say next to impossible. However, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution has opened the doors to avenues for change. Firstly, education is a provincial subject and the transfer of budgets (with increased allocations through the National Finance Commission Awards) implies that there is now more flexibility and autonomy with the provinces in matters of policy and operations. Secondly, the inclusion of right to education in the fundamental rights also ensures that this is now a justiciable right as well as a paramount priority of the state. […]

April 30th, 2011|development, education, governance, published in DAWN|2 Comments

Myths, fables and lies: The murder of history in Pakistan

KK Aziz’s seminal study, ‘The Murder of History’ is essential to understand what went wrong in Pakistan. The most worrying sign of an insecure and fissured polity is when it reinvents, twists and lies about its history especially relating to its genesis and progress. K K Aziz was not an Indian nationalist, nor a screaming ideologue who wanted Pakistan to fritter away. In fact his early work The Making of Pakistanremains an essential reading on how Pakistan came into being. He believed in Pakistan despite his emotional links to the separated eastern part of the Punjab. However, at the zenith of his career he could not conceal his deep anguish and disappointment with the way ‘History’ in his beloved country had turned into sham-narratives comprising fables, myths and outright deceit.

Three brutal realities by the end of Zia era were clear: Pakistan’s military-bureaucracy complex had reinvented an ideological state based on a sectarian worldview; History was an instrument of propagating this ideology; and the jihad factories were flourishing. Jinnah’s Pakistan had been irreversibly shattered and perhaps destroyed. For K K Aziz’s generation this was nothing short of a great betrayal.

Published in the early 1990s, ‘The Murder of History’ for the first time documented a meticulous analysis of the history books taught in Pakistani schools and colleges. The book revolves around the main argument that History and Pakistan Studies curricula was nothing more political propaganda aimed at indoctrinating young minds through half-truths and blatant falsehoods. […]