Monthly Archives: November 2005

Roots of the organ racket

by Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

A MAJOR international meeting opened yesterday in Karachi. This was the triennial Conference of the Asian Society of Transplantation (CAST) that has brought together 200 experts from Asian countries and a few more from Europe and America.

They will be discussing issues related to organ transplantation. Although CAST gives the impression of being a very technical forum of medical professionals, the major issue to be debated is of a non-technical nature and directly concerns lay people. In Pakistan, it has acquired a grave dimension.
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When women are worst sufferers

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

FOUR days after the devastating earthquake in Azad Kashmir and the NWFP, the UNFPA released its annual report, State of the World Population 2005, which focused on gender equality. The earthquake was a compelling pointer to the drastic implications of a high population growth rate for women and children.

More than half of the 76,000 killed or the several hundred thousands injured by the earthquake were children. As someone poignantly put it, a whole generation has been destroyed.
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The healing touch

By Zubeida Mustafa

Since October 8 when the killer earthquake hit Azad Kashmir and northern Pakistan, the media has been full of images related to the tragedy. They tell a bigger story than a thousand written or spoken words. There are two pictures which are striking for their extraordinary touch of humanism. They are symbolic of what the human touch means to a person — young or old, man, woman or child.

One picture which was published a few days after the earthquake shows an army officer holding up with great affection a rescued infant who smiles warmly at his benefactor. Another picture which appeared more recently shows Queen Rania of Jordan shaking hands with an earthquake survivor in a hospital. Both are smiling. That is the magic of the human touch.

Medical science has now conclusively proved that when people shake hands or hug each other — that is, when they establish physical contact — it makes them feel good. Our grandmothers have known for a long time, even before the obstetricians and paediatricians said it, that cuddling a baby is absolutely essential for his emotional, physical and mental development. Conversely, a child who was not held and hugged in infancy very often suffers from psychological/emotional problems.

And if someone is feeling unwell, under stress or down in the dumps, a hug can work wonders. Try it and see. The principal of a private nursing college in Karachi, the only PhD in nursing in Pakistan, once recalled that when she was under training, the trainee nurses were instructed to always touch their patients gently on the forehead when asking them how they were feeling. She regretted that this very important rule was not strictly observed any more.

Not surprising then that it was a woman from Jordan who came all the way to Pakistan to touch an injured woman and bring a smile to her face. Did you notice that all our leaders who visited the injured in hospitals or went to console the survivors and never missed a photo op with them, were hardly ever seen extending a hand to give someone a reassuring pat or hug a traumatized person or cuddle a child in a state of shock. There were pictures of bigwigs standing next to the hospital bed looking at the earthquake victim or talking to the doctor in attendance. Three pictures have now appeared which can be described as exceptions. They are of the president, the prime minister and the first lady with children being held by them. That is encouraging. But don’t forget that the adults need emotional support, too.

Remember Princess Diana’s visit to Lahore and how she held the cancer-stricken children close to her? These gestures endeared her to the public simply because her ways had a healing effect on the ill children and brought a smile to their faces.

Touch is such an important element in human interaction that Virginia Satir, an eminent social scientist, remarked, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

Isn’t it time we loosened up a bit? We don’t like to touch a stranger to comfort him if he is in distress. When it comes to smiling, we don’t even do that often enough. And for a stranger we happen to be face to face with, we reserve our grimmest expression. Perhaps each of us is too private a person and is afraid of connecting with others we do not know. Or has it something to do with the stratified society we live in?

But kind words are very often not enough. As some health workers from the Red Cross who worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Rita recall how people trying to be brave would invariably say, “Fine, thank you. The family is fine, too,” when asked how they were. But then the health worker would reach out and pat them on the shoulder, they would break down. They were the ones who needed help. They were invited to come and talk about their problems which were many. A typical scene would be that of a health nurse putting her arm around a woman and leading her to a quiet spot where they talked as the nurse held the woman’s hand. “They need to talk. They need someone to lean on for a little bit,” observes one mental health worker. Let us also provide that supportive hand and the shoulder to lean on for the earthquake survivors.n

Source: Dawn

Debate on medium of instruction

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

A QUESTION we are still grappling with in Pakistan after 58 years is, what should be the language of instruction in our schools? Given all the scientific research that has gone into the language and literacy issues worldwide — but surprisingly not enough in Pakistan — one would have thought we would have found the answer by now. Unfortunately, we haven’t.

Those who have studied the psycholinguistic development of a child are very clear about their findings. They say that language and cognitive development are intimately related. According to them, a child learns best in his mother tongue because he is not doubly burdened with the task of acquiring literacy skills simultaneously with learning another language not his own. That is why very often the student taught in a non-mother tongue learns to read syllable by syllable with very little comprehension.
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An uncalled for controversy

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

A LANGUAGE controversy has been brewing in Sindh for the last five weeks. It would have assumed the shape of a full-blown crisis had the earthquake of October 8 and its aftermath not diverted public attention. But as life returns to normality, attention is once again focused on the language issue which can become quite explosive if not handled promptly and tactfully.

The venom being spewed out is reminiscent of the tumultuous days of July 1972 when Karachi went up in flames, curfew had to be imposed and people lost their lives. It may be recalled that the cause of provocation at that time was the Sindh (Teaching, Promotion and Use of Sindhi Language) Act, 1972, which the Sindh Assembly adopted on July 7, 1972. This prescribed measures for the teaching of Sindhi in accordance with Article 267 of the Constitution which provided that a provincial legislature could promote a provincial language without prejudice to Urdu, the national language.
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Miseducating the child

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

LAST week it was decided at a high level meeting in which both the president and the prime minister were present that the education sector would receive four per cent of the GDP in the fiscal year 2006-07. It has not been reported in the media what stirred the government to suddenly turn its attention to this very important sector of national life which has conventionally not been deemed worthy of our leaders’ attention and precious time.
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