Category Archives: Children and Youth

Nobel for Malala

By Zubeida Mustafa

EDUCATION, or rather the lack of it, in Pakistan has made world headlines on a number of occasions. Last week, the issue was once again in the limelight, but with a positive twist. Malala Yousafzai, our young campaigner for education, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala has done us proud as did Prof Abdus Salam 35 years ago when he became Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate (for physics).

Malala’s commitment to campaigning for girls’ education and her fearlessness in defying the Taliban have made her an icon. In spite of the danger to her life, she challenged the militants and their perverse mindset that led them to blow up hundreds of schools in the country. She has inspired many girls in Pakistan. Today, this inspiration is needed not so much to convince girls that education can empower them, as to instil the courage in them to resist the brutal opposition they face from vested anti-social elements, and not just the Taliban and their ilk. Continue reading

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Elusive goals

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By Zubeida Mustafa

WITH Pakistan more concerned about the existential threat it faces, one is hardly surprised that not much is heard of the MDGs — those elusive eight points called the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the UN in 2000 to be met in 15 years. The deadline is approaching and it is time for scrutiny of the report card.

How has the world fared on this count? The UN MDG report of 2014 observes that these goals have made a “profound difference in people’s lives and the first goal of halving poverty was achieved five years ahead of the 2015 time frame. Ninety per cent of children in developing regions now enjoy primary education, and disparities between boys and girls in enrolment have narrowed”.

It speaks of remarkable gains having also been made in all health indicators. According to the UN, the target of halving the proportion of people who lack access to improved sources of water has also been met. The UN, however, concludes that a lot more still needs to be done to accelerate progress. As it is, the goals did not seek universal coverage in all sectors. Every goal had varying targets. If the global results pleased the UN it is understandable. Some countries performed infinitely better than others. Continue reading

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IS and the youth

liftarn_Person_with_molotov_cocktail

By Zubeida Mustafa

A MAJOR issue being debated in Britain today concerns the Muslims — men and women. It is what is termed the radicalisation of their youth.

Concerns were sparked off by the Islamic State (formerly Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) when its militants beheaded James Foley, an American journalist covering the war in Syria, and circulated a video of the bestial act. Even before this incident grabbed the headlines, media reports had been suggesting that authorities in London believed that as many as 500 Muslim men with British nationality had left the UK to join the IS ‘jihad’. Continue reading

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Legacy unbounded

Anita Ghulam Ali (Photo source: dawn.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

Do icons really pass away? They can’t, because being iconic makes them immortal in the public collective consciousness. And it is an icon that Anita Ghulamali had become. What made her so outstanding was her will to take on the most powerful enemies of education in Pakistan.

Her constituency comprised the common people. Her battles were fought for them and the only battle she lost was with death on Aug 8. The outpouring of admiration and affection for her that has followed testifies to her sincerity.

She is being eulogised most for her contribution to education and rightly so. But the difference she made to this key social sector has yet to make an impact. I am confident her ideas will prevail, though it may take time. In education the decay begins insidiously and reform is a long-drawn process that spans generations. Continue reading

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Education: A victim of expediency

By Zubeida Mustafa
From Dawn Archives Library 9 & 16 Oct 1987

Education in Pakistan is in a state of crisis. Not only has the government failed to fulfil this basic need of the citizens by establishing educational institutions in sufficient numbers, the quality of the education available is also deplorably poor. Given the weaknesses in the education system, it is not surprising that only 26 per cent of Pakistanis are literate (taking a technical definition of literacy), only 50 per cent of the primary school-age children are enrolled in schools and 50 per cent of them drop out before they complete five years of schooling.

The statistics for women are even more depressing. Only sixteen per cent of them are literate — seven per cent in the rural areas — 32 per cent girls in the 5-9 years age group are enrolled in school and eight per cent attend higher secondary school. Continue reading

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Points of order

Professor Anita Ghulam Ali talks about the latest object of her passion

By Zubeida Mustafa
From Dawn Archives Library 28 June 1998

Pakistan is a country which has been ignominiously sliding down the Human Development Index of the UNDP — from 94th in 1990 to 139th in 1997. Today only 13 countries out of the 175 listed have a lower score than Pakistan’s in the education index, which is calculated on the basis of adult literacy rate and gross enrolment ratio in schools. In this dismal scenario when things seem to be falling apart one can get cynical about optimists like Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, the Managing Director of the Sindh Education Foundation.

She says that she feels hopeful that the situation will improve. When you visit her spick and span office in Clifton with its neatly laid out garden patch and are reminded twice by its dynamic MD that this too is a government office, you are forced to concede that the official machinery can work if the will is present. As she proudly shows you round, you note that the environment is too pleasant for it to be the usual kind of government institution one is accustomed to — you make a mental comparison with the decrepit passport office, which you had visited a few weeks ago and which earns a handsome revenue for the exchequer. The SEF’s library, computers, notice-boards with colourful pictures pinned on them, spotless floors free of paan stains makes it more like the office of a private sector organization. Continue reading

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Pakistan Zindabad- the Absolute Patriot

Professor Anita Ghulam Ali
1934-2014

By Baela Raza Jamil
The Apprentice of Anita Ghulam Ali
guest-contributorSo I missed her last rites which I should have performed preparing Anita Apa for the next life –I wanted that last breeze to  blow on my face blessing me with her provocation and sensitivity as she had done for millions in her life. That was not to be.  Yes she was a true blue blood citizen of this country – the few who can claim blue blood in citizenship – she was one of the toppers. Her values were self- crafted and self- imposed; she stood against all opposition to create and follow them and no one could convince her otherwise. Yes she walked the talk; yes she embraced innovation and humanity and her mind kept buzzing with ideas until the very end – her brains never gave up even for a second.

My memories of her are since 1974 when I visited her at the Sindh Muslim College where she was energizing her students and the institution in the midst of some controversy and then some years later at her apartment trying to understand her role as the President of the Pakistan  College Teachers’ Association for my research. At that point I had decided that if ever I wanted to serve an apprenticeship it would be with her.  Continue reading

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Rainbow in My Cloud

By Sadaf Zuberi​

guest-contributor“I shall not look upon her like again” (abstracted from Hamlet Act 1 sc. 2)

​We all thought she was immortal. Some people you imagine will live for ever. But then some do. They continue to live. In your heart. In thoughts. In our actions.

Each of us whose lives she touched carry some shade of Professor Anita Ghulam Ali in them. Her institution of a personality and an unwavering drive to be the change. An icon of integrity, commitment and perseverance. Fighter. Activist. Educationist. Teacher. Mentor. Confidant. Friend. Guru. And Guide.

But we knew her more.

As a voracious reader. Connoisseur of Arts. A naturalist at heart. Generous to a fault and hospitable to the core. Her extraordinary rapport with all and the impeccable ability to make each one feel special. Continue reading

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O the rankings again

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By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings released last week offers some food for thought — that is, if we do not dismiss this annual exercise as a Jewish conspiracy. For Pakistan the bad news is that none of our universities figure in the first 400 institutions of higher education ranked globally. Pakistan failed to make it even to the top 100 Asian institutions.

Using carefully selected criteria, THE ranks universities across the globe according to their “core missions — teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.” As can be expected, American and European universities have the highest ranking — the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of Oxford are the top three. Asia also boasts of 20 universities that are part of this prestigious global list — the University of Tokyo was judged as the best in the continent, and China, Korea and Singapore are making remarkable headway. Continue reading

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Polio emergency

By Zubeida Mustafa

A FIRM stand by WHO has jerked the Pakistan government into action. Since Sunday all travellers going abroad are required to take polio drops. Last month WHO’s director general had declared the international spread of polio a “public health emergency of international concern” warranting “temporary recommendations for coordinated international efforts”.

Since Pakistan was named as one of the three ‘polio-exporting countries’ the matter made banner headlines in the media at home. Ironically, the prospects of a country with an inordinately large number of crippled children had not caused much alarm. Continue reading

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