Category Archives: Children and Youth

Language Discrimination in Pakistan Harms Women and Indigenous Culture

Sharing to Learn. Photograph by Flickr user Mustafa Mohsin and used under a Creative Commons license.

By Zubeida Mustafa

Asifa, 12, lives in Karachi, the port city in southern Pakistan. She is a child of the lesser gods. That means that she is malnourished and falls ill frequently. Her home is a modest two-room house with no running water in which her family of eight lives. She is fortunate to go to a better school than the public sector institutions many of her friends and neighbors attend – that is, if they go to school at all. Being the first generation school-goer in her family, Asifa’s is not the carefree existence a child deserves. Her parents have invested a lot in her to provide her education, and have pinned all their hopes in her future.

Will Asifa be able to lead her family out of poverty? Most unlikely. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Language, Women |

Revisiting the Women’s Movement

Photo courtesy newslinemagazine.com

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN is a dichotomous world. This is a country that has produced a woman prime minister – the first to be elected in a Muslim state. Its predominantly male parliament – the lower house – unanimously adopted a bill against domestic violence four years ago, but it failed to become law because the upper house refused to take it up. Its academia are now overflowing with female students – many of them in hijab. But this is also a country where women are murdered for marrying a man of their own choice, where little girls like Malala are shot in the head for going to school and where law makers defend their ‘right’ to bury women alive in the name of honour and refuse to condemn a colleague who has had his daughter killed for wanting a divorce. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Children and Youth, Human Rights, Women |

Rethinking medium

Dr Tariq Rahman

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week there was something to celebrate — rare in these troubled times. One of our eminent scholars, Dr Tariq Rahman, dean of the School of Education at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, was awarded a DLitt degree by the University of Sheffield, UK, for his work on language, art, culture and social developments that was assessed to qualify him on merit for this honour. In Europe less than 1pc of faculty gets a DLitt in the social sciences.

This achievement should do Pakistan proud. Given the state of our education, any academic whose work wins recognition, especially internationally, deserves to be acknowledged. This should be treated as an occasion for us to revisit his work and scholarship.

It is also important for our policymakers and educationists to read some of Dr Rahman’s 18 books embodying his knowledge and research. They will realise where they have gone wrong. Dr Rahman is a prolific writer and his works are eye-openers especially regarding language in the educational, social, cultural and political context in Pakistan. Continue reading

7 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Language |

Battle of ideas

clf2014poster

By Zubeida Mustafa

AS it has gathered steam, the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) — a unique event in Pakistan — has collected around itself a band of devoted supporters sharing the ideals of the founders. A key objective of the festival is to encourage children to read books so that they develop the faculty of critical thinking. Recently Karachi hosted the 11th CLF and on this occasion the question asked was what purpose books would serve in these testing times. Ahmad Shah, the president of the Karachi Arts Council, who generously opened up the KAC’s premises for the children of the city, had the answer.

The basic aim of education should be to change the mindset of people, he said. This can be done by promoting the reading of books — a habit which gives exposure to a variety of opinions and enlightens the readers in the process. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, New |

Magic of a teacher

By Zubeida Mustafa
A WITTY quote runs, “Doctors bury their mistakes. Lawyers hang them. But journalists put theirs on the front page.” I would add, “And teachers exhibit theirs for generations to come.”

Take the case of Pakistan where the malaise in education runs deep. It began decades ago and has increased as poor education for one generation has ensured a worse batch of teachers for the next.

Mercifully, this flaw has now come to be recognised and an effort is under way to rectify the wrongs of the past. The focus has shifted to teachers. All schools worth their salt are now providing for the training of their teachers on an ongoing basis. Workshops and seminars are held regularly. The concept of lifelong education is catching on. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Education, Social Issues |

Restoring childhood

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

  1. WHEN Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese-American poet, wrote his famous poem Pity the Nation he probably could not in his wildest dreams imagine the excesses a nation can commit against children, whose souls, according to him, “dwell in the house of tomorrow”. Had he sensed man’s brutality towards his own offspring, Gibran would have added, ‘Pity the nation that robs its children of their childhood’.
  2. The shocking murder of a child in Lahore allegedly by her employer is a small example of how Pakistan treats its children. According to Arshad Mahmood, a child’s rights activist, 24 children engaged in domestic labour have been killed in Pakistan since January 2010 when Shazia Masih was reported to have been brutally killed in the lawyer’s home where she worked.
  3. It must be noted that domestic labour is only one sector where children go to earn a living. Equally deplorable are the Worst forms of child labour as described by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) in two districts of Sindh — Tando Allahyar and Badin.
  4. Researched painstakingly by Zeenat Hisam and her team, these two slim volumes are eye-openers. They highlight the magnitude and various dimensions of child labour in these areas of Sindh. The idea is to keep the public focus on this problem and design interventions to eradicate child labour. The reports also identify the socio-economic factors that have created conditions in which hazardous forms of child labour thrive.

Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Labour, New, Social Issues |

As bleak as ever

education_policybrief

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE new year has brought with it the report card on education in Pakistan that ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) has been issuing without fail since 2009. It is disappointing that the situation in the education sector remains as dismal as ever.

Last week, ASER again had bad news for the nation when it launched its annual report. The latter was based on tests given to 249,832 children in 138 rural districts. A few urban areas were also surveyed.

Today, when Article 25-A of the Constitution is in place making education free and compulsory for all those from six to 16 years of age, it is a tragedy that 21pc of Pakistan’s rural children are still not enrolled in school. While that is a sad reflection on the missing political commitment to education in various provincial governments, one cannot turn a blind eye to other factors. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Education, New |

Reading for sharing

Photograph by Marcus Quigmire, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

FEW people now read for pleasure. Therefore, to meet a person who loves to read books can be a fascinating experience. And if there are people who read for pleasure and then drive down miles every Friday evening without fail to participate in discussions on books, then it is time to learn more about them.

I have had the privilege of meeting such bibliophiles — about 20 or 25 of them — who describe themselves as members of the Readers Club. On Jan 10, the club will complete 13 years of its low-profile existence. Two years ago it was registered as a trust to ensure its permanence.

The brainchild of Abbas Husain, the well-known director of the Teachers Development Centre who claims to have reached out to 40,000 teachers in 20 years, and Azmat Khan, a management trainer professional, the Readers’ Club has held over 500 meetings so far. Continue reading

9 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, New, Social Issues |

The Chinese way

China. Picture courtesy: Wikimedia

By Zubeida Mustafa

I BEGIN with a prayer for 2014. May our rulers realise the importance of good education for all and may they acquire the wisdom to know how to go about providing it. Amen.

The concern expressed the other day by the federal minister of education about discrepancies in standards of students from different provinces on account of the lack of uniformity in the curriculum all over the country shows why the above prayer is so timely. It is not quite clear what is upsetting the honourable minister.

If he is worried about diversity in the syllabi, which is inevitable in view of the autonomy the provinces now enjoy, he must guard against our traditional love for conformism. Let a hundred flowers blossom, Mr Minister. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Economy, Education, New, Social Issues |

Unlocking the mind

Adeel Hashmi at CLF. Picture Courtesy: CLF

By Zubeida Mustafa

AT what age does a child start thinking? Experts believe that children have a mind of their own since they are born. Some even believe that their cognitive abilities are present even when they are in their mother’s womb. That is why they are more at ease with the language they hear their mother speak.

It is a different — though sad — matter that we, as adults, suppress this creative and critical thinking power of children that nature has endowed them with. Since we are comfortable among conformists who do not pose uncomfortable questions we shape our education policies in such a way that children forget how to question. Continue reading

11 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Social Issues |