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.
THIS week the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) is holding an international symposium to celebrate 40 years of its existence.
The logo designed for the occasion sums up its philosophy: “Every human being has the right to access healthcare irrespective of caste, colour or religious belief, free with dignity.” At SIUT you actually see this happening.
For long, it was the dream of its founder, Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi, to create a nucleus that would evolve into an equitable and inclusive healthcare system that would be accessible to all. Continue reading A 40-year journey→
I DISCOVERED the SIUT in the 1980’s when the private sector had begun to invade the healthcare system in Pakistan in a big way.
My quest was for an institution that could meet the health need of the masses at a time when the government was stepping back from its basic responsibility of providing citizens their fundamental right to health.
Of course the SIUT was not known by this name then. It was the Urology Department of the Civil Hospital – a public sector health institution. But even then it was so distinct from its parent body in its working and approach to issues of health and disease that one could not fail to take note. Be it its impeccable hygiene or the atmosphere of kindliness radiated by those who took care of the patients, this institution stood out for its uniqueness. Continue reading SIUT’s philosophy: a rare creed→
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→
COTTON growers in southern Punjab are facing a serious crisis. Their crop production has shrunk drastically. The reasons stated, among others, are poor quality seeds and severe pest attack.
These factors can be addressed, provided the will exists. Poor seeds and pest attacks that are interconnected have a causal link with the rapid spread of genetically modified organisms (GMO) that have begun to shake public confidence the world over.
The tide is now turning as demonstrations have been held against GMOs, which shot to fame when they were promoted as the miracle seed to eliminate hunger. But the fact is that hybrid plants in which genomes from different species are mixed are too new and untested a technology to win universal acceptance. Continue reading ‘Seedy’ business→
Please note: This paper was presented at the Second Silk Road International Cultural Forum in Moscow, Russia on September 15, 2015, in the session on Cultural diversity contributes to innovation, and later with slight modifications as The Tangible and Intangible Aspects of Cultural Diversity at a Roundtable Discussion in the Rumi Forum where the overriding theme was Respect Difference and Diversity to Foster Peace and Harmony, on October 14, 2015.
Cultural diversity, tangible and intangible, affects and influences our lives, wherever we may be living. We imbibe diversity, consciously or unconsciously. The result is perhaps more significant in cultures which are still predominantly traditional, within today’s modern urban condition.
THE Tehreek-i-Niswan and Sheema Kermani have always been at the forefront when matters of peace are at stake. Many performances by the Tehreek have been directed at protesting the brutality of violence against and oppression of women. Hence it was quite in keeping with its character that the group convened a ‘peace table’ on Oct 15, at the Karachi Arts Council. Here hundreds of women and also men assembled to reinforce the widely held, but unimplemented, belief that female involvement in peacemaking improves the chances of lasting security.
A landmark resolution (1325) was adopted by the UN Security Council 15 years ago calling for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking. It has so far made a nominal impact. The head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, admits that globally “women’s participation at peace tables is still symbolic or low”. Continue reading Peace women→
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→
Fortunately, not everyone is sick to the teeth of the democratic process; however, far too many are of the electoral process. Pakistanis have been subjected to ceaseless blustering repetitive electoral campaigning for more than two years.
The last national election took place in 2013. Losers complained: Probably a probe would have revealed some irregularities; but far from a general outcry about extensive rigging there was public relief that the verdict was being respected:
People have unhappy memories of caretaker governments and military intervention precipitated by agitational politics. Does the PTI think that deterrent apprehension has faded?
There has been general acclamation of the electoral transition from one democratically elected government to another. The emphasis has been on the completion of the previous government’s mandated term, The PTI did not set itself apart by rejecting the mandate in its entirety. It contented itself with demanding a probe into a handful of seats. Continue reading Sick to the teeth→
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→