Category Archives: Children and Youth

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

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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

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Football therapy

By Zubeida Mustafa



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

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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

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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

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Teacher in exile

By Zubeida Mustafa


Bernadette Dean

CAN we hope to hear news from Pakistan that brings some light to the end of the tunnel? It is a red-letter day when we do and one such day came recently when I read about a group of creative artists who have shown the courage to counter Pakistan’s biggest existential challenge — the indoctrination of youth by religious extremists and militants.

These artists have ventured to produce rational literature which they are disseminating among young readers to inspire some soul-searching within them. The graphic novel titled Pasban is designed to encourage the readers to ask questions on basic issues of the day and help them seek sensible answers.

This no doubt will be an uphill task considering the government’s own failure to counter the extremist threat. All it was required to do was to introduce liberal values through curricula reforms. The primary need is to teach children tolerance and Continue reading

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Paper chase

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN May the World Economic Forum issued the Human Capital Report 2015 that facilitates a comparative assessment of the education systems of various countries. For that purpose the WEF has created an index that uses four criteria (termed pillars) as a measure. They are education, health and wellness, employment and enabling environment. The idea is to judge the productive capacity of the workforce

Where does Pakistan stand in this league? With a score of 52.63, we rank 113th out of a total of 124 countries assessed. In other words, only 11 countries are in a worse state than us. Finland which tops the list has a score of 85.78. Continue reading

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Effects of nutrition on educational standards of school children of a developing country

By Zubeida Mustafa 

In the age of specialization we have become so focused on specific areas and issues that we fail to take a holistic approach to problems. The fact is that human life comprises several integrated sectors. The impact of one on another is profound and symbiotic. Hence effective solutions to various problems call for a comprehensive strategy. Here I shall take up two very important areas of a child’s life that are closely interrelated though they are not treated as such by the policymakers. They are education and nutrition.
Both of these pose a major challenge to the people as well as the authorities in Third World countries. While education requires the government to provide facilities to enable children to enroll in school to study, nutrition is related to the health of a child without which education can prove to be a daunting task. A child who falls ill frequently has a high incidence of school absenteeism. That affects his education because irregularity in attendance causes her to miss her lessons and lowers her standards. While this is a phenomenon that is pretty visible, there is an insidious feature of children’s health that has an impact on education which does not find general mention in literature on paediatric health or education issues.
This is the impact malnutrition and various deficiencies make on the cognitive and mental growth and development of a child. It actually affects her intelligence, memory and capacity to learn. While the side-effects of the deficiency of various vitamins and iodine on the physical health of children have been documented not much is known generally about the impact of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency on the intelligence and mental capacities of a child.
This is significant considering the widespread prevalence of malnutrition in Pakistan. According to the National Nutrition Survey (2011) nearly 43.7 percent of all children under five years of age in Pakistan are severely or moderately stunted. The same survey found 15.1 percent under-5 suffered from wasting and 31.5 percent were underweight.1 There is a lot of regional disparity in and within the provinces. Continue reading

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Save Karachi


By Zubeida Mustafa

RUMANA Husain’s recently published Street Smart: Professionals on the Street comes as a reminder of how we are losing the city where many of us have lived and worked for most of our lives. Karachi is no more what I remember of it when I was a child.

Some categories of the blue-collar workers, as Rumana calls the people who are the subject of her book, no longer exist. Mechanisation, technology and lifestyles have made them redundant. That is change, as the new replaces the old. But the tragedy is that the street professionals no longer knit the community together as they once did. Continue reading

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A people’s man

By Zubeida Mustafa

asadAsad Husain Shah, 35, is Project Manager at the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust (AHMMT) in Khairo Dero (KD), which was set up in 2008 by the late Mr Mangi’s granddaughter Naween. Its goal is to create a model village.

What distinguishes Asad from numerous others in his village is his sensitivity to his environment and his immense capacity to think issues through  philosophically. In fact his colleagues have nicknamed him ‘The Philosopher.’ It is this quality that gave him courage to shun the ‘privileges’ that birth bestowed upon him and adopt a lifestyle that he believes has given him self-esteem.

Born to a Syed family in Balochistan, Asad remembers his childhood as an unsettled one. His father migrated to Sindh and was constantly on the move. Being the imam of a mosque, he enjoyed  a special status in society. By virtue of his ancestry that he traced to  the Holy Prophet (PBUH), he could claim the privileged position of a pir in Sindhi culture. Continue reading

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