Learn from China

medcongBy Zubeida Mustafa

THE Sino-Pakistan friendship has stood the test of time. Although the China-Pakistan Eco­nomic Corridor that has been underpin­ned with 51 agreements and MOUs has been generating controversy in abundance, one cannot blame the Chinese. We have the innate capacity of not doing the groundwork for any project we launch. Inevitably, it sparks a dispute.

One positive outcome of the flurry of activity that has come in the wake of the economic corridor is the move by the medical associations of the two countries to set up a ‘medical corridor’. This collaboration resulted in a joint MedCong that was held in Karachi in early January. It was attended by an impressive 40-member Chinese delegation led by Prof Keqin Rao, vice president and secretary general of the Chinese Medical Association. Continue reading “Learn from China”

Joy of writing

By Zubeida Mustafa

CAROL Loomis, an American financial journalist, who retired in 2014 as senior editor of Fortune magazine, once wrote, “Writing itself makes you realise where there are holes in your thinking.”

She added, “I am never sure what I think unless I see what I write. I believe the analysis part of you kicks in when you sit down to construct a story or even a sentence.”

This is a succinct but profound statement which, unfortunately, our education system operating in a largely oral environment does not recognise. When we cannot even understand the link between language and communication how can we ever realise the significance of articulating our thoughts accurately and cogently. Obviously, no one cares because our education is not designed to inculcate critical thinking in our students. The less they think and question, the happier are the educators who can continue to operate in their comfort zone. Continue reading “Joy of writing”

After the assassination

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

guest-contributorTaking the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as a watershed, in what direction has the traumatized PPP travelled? One could say it parted ways from both its own realities and national ones. Playing upon the deep-seated tradition of deference to the dead and intense emotional rebound to the political tragedy, her successors rapidly recast the dynamically minded Benazir into a figurehead of persecuted martyrdom.

The process facilitated the PPP’s emergent leader in personally securing party control and subsequently obtaining and retaining executive and legislative leadership.

It is now political blasphemy for the party hierarchy not to pay unthinking homage to voices that speak with oracular authority from what has become the Bhutto-Zardari shrine. The tragic irony is that this idolization is sounding a death-knell for the uniquely vital mainstream national party: Continue reading “After the assassination”

Turning point

Teenaz with her husband
Teenaz with her husband

By Zubeida Mustafa

Every journalist has a story to tell. Teenaz Javat, by blood Indian, by bond Pakistani, by choice Canadian as she describes herself, and by profession a journalist, also has a story to tell.  I ask her which story she wrote that gave her a sense of achievement. She speaks of ‘Turning Point,’ a story on domestic violence in the South Asian community in Toronto .

This was co-produced by her for CBC Radio. She was the lead researcher. The programme discussed several high-profile domestic murders of South Asian women. Her programme created quite a stir and it led to the Toronto police convening a conference to discuss violence in South Asian communities. Teenaz says, “I was really happy that something I did on radio had made such a big impact on the community.”  She even won the prestigious Ontario Premier’s Award in 2011 for the story.

Good journalists must be rooted in the community about which they report. A media person who does not know and understand the men and women who are central to her stories can never be the best. Always aware of this truism, I would often marvel at a young woman who I met in my colleague’s office soon after she had joined Dawn in 1994, where I worked. Continue reading “Turning point”

‘Asering’ education

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By Zubeida Mustafa

SINCE 2008 the Annual State of Education Report (Aser) has emerged as an annual exercise which is impatiently awaited. Mainly focusing on children’s learning levels in school in the rural areas, Aser is now recognised as a fairly accurate assessment of the quality of education in Pakistan.

This year Aser records an overall ‘improvement’ under many heads by using the 2014 results as the benchmark. Our policymakers are bound to seize this indicator to go into self-congratulatory euphoria. But the fact is that an improvement of one or two percentage points in some areas is not really progress. The overall picture remains bleak.

A country where one-fifth of its children aged six to 16 remain out of school should hang its head in shame. This is what we have to show five years after our Constitution was amended to make education free and compulsory for the five- to16-year-olds.


The overall picture of our schools remains bleak.

Continue reading “‘Asering’ education”

Magic of science

By Zubeida Mustafa

Lalah Rukh Malik - Photo by Khaula
Lalah Rukh Malik – Photo by Khaula Jamil

SOMETIME ago, I was trying to teach Shaan, a teenager studying in a school in a low-income neighbourhood, about the rotation of the earth, the solar eclipse and the pull of gravity. After describing these phenomena, I asked him why we didn’t fall off the earth when it rotates. He very promptly replied, “Because God has willed it so.”

His lack of curiosity about natural phenomena left me thunderstruck. Then a look at the science textbooks used in our schools gave me a better insight into the disinterest of our students in science. They are required to memorise a Continue reading “Magic of science”

Learning from CLF

By Zubeida Mustafa

Poster designed by Fauzia Minallah
Poster designed by Fauzia Minallah

ALL of a sudden, Pakistan’s official circles seem to be awakening to the importance of education for the development of the country. But their newfound enthusiasm can be quite daunting especially when there is no change in the establishment’s views on ‘ideologising’ the entire spectrum of learning.

Hence it was news to me when I learnt that five years after devolution under the 18th Amendment, it has been realised that the New Education Policy of 2009 is no longer implementable. Another policy will now be framed collectively by all the provinces. In order to respect the autonomy of the federating units, the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference has been inducted into the process. Since last year, six meetings have been held. One cannot vouch for the full participation of all the provinces in the policymaking process, especially Sindh given its irregular attendance in IPEMC meetings. Officials are optimistic that the policy will be framed by the end of this year and implemented in 2016. Continue reading “Learning from CLF”

Football therapy

By Zubeida Mustafa

Mehar
Mehar

THERE is still hope for Pakistan. Paradoxically, it comes from the least expected of sources: the street children. Recently, their football team returned home from Oslo proudly bearing a bronze medal from the Norway Cup, the largest international youth football tournament.

It has been a meteoric rise for Pakistan which made its debut in the Street Child Football World Cup only last year in Rio to earn third place. These youngsters have grit and have managed to confront boldly the tragedy of their broken existence. Now they are rebuilding their lives.

One can understand the magnitude of their achievement only in the context of what life can be for children in a society hostile to them. The challenges are greater for the underprivileged. Denied satisfactory facilities for education, healthcare and sports while lacking support from a happy and stable family environment many of these children take the escape route to the streets. There they live uncared for, seeking security in a group of Continue reading “Football therapy”

Myths and reality

By Zubeida Mustafa

Sindh24-13-06-1986THE census is one of the trickiest issues in Pakistan today because of its political and economic implications. Our policymakers have found a way around the problem. They adopt an ostrich-like approach thus hoping to wish away the challenge that the 190.3 million (World Population Review) people pose.

No census has been held in Pakistan since 1998 — the preliminary housing survey that was undertaken in 2011 was aborted when it became too controversial. Now it has been reported that the census planned for 2016 and announced in March is unlikely to be held.

The government cannot be condoned for its negligence. Policymaking has to go on and some numerical guidelines always help. Despite the apathy of the official sector, demographic statistics have registered an improvement — but not enough to make an impact. Continue reading “Myths and reality”

Over to ‘Urdish’

By Zubeida Mustafa

LANGUAGE continues to be an enigma in Pakistan. For the umpteenth time education is being ‘reformed’ in this country. Federal Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal has now announced that ‘Urdish’ will be used as the medium of education in the country.

This is the first time Urdish (not Urlish) is being introduced officially. According to the minister, this initiative will rid the country of the “English medium-Urdu medium controversy that has damaged education standards and adversely affected the growth of young minds.” Continue reading “Over to ‘Urdish’”