THE discourse on language in education has taken the intelligentsia by storm in the wake of the Single National Curriculum (SNC). The polarisation between various points of view is so intense that a meaningful debate is impossible. It is intriguing why the supporters of English distort some issues beyond recognition. Hence here is another attempt to clarify issues.
First it must be restated that the discussion is not whether children should learn English or a local language. Those who support the local languages as the medium of instruction have always added ‘and English must be taught as a foreign language’. I have yet to figure out why we are accused of pushing out English from our education system to make our children backward and incapable of handling technology. It seems to imply that even if we are failing to teach English correctly it is fine so long as we stick to our mantra of English and English alone.
ONE aspect of the Single National Curriculum that has yet to be resolved is the medium of instruction. It came under the spotlight when the National Curriculum Council announced in March its outlandish idea of making English the medium of instruction from preschool to Grade 5. Strangely, many in Pakistan have argued endlessly in support of English. They believe that without fluency in English one cannot get a job.
On the other hand, there are some who want Urdu, the national language, as the medium of instruction. But Urdu is not the mother tongue of 90 per cent of the people even though it is the language of wider communication. That leaves the mother tongue (a native language) as the only feasible option for the medium of instruction. A decision has to be taken. For six months, the government has been wavering and the consultations are becoming endless. Yet another conference was held on Wednesday. Here it was decided to set up a committee to take a ‘final’ decision on the medium issue.
Not having conducted any research/ surveys on the matter, the government has no firm ground to stand on. It would help if the education ministry would look up its own archives and dig out Javed Hasan Aly’s massive White Paper on Education (2006). It is the only thoroughly deliberated official policy document on education that I have read in Pakistan. It is a pity that the education minister at the time (an ex-army general) rejected it because Aly had proposed that the mother tongue be used as the medium of instruction.
IN her poem Children Learn What They Live, Dorothy Nolte writes that if children live with hostility they learn to fight and if they live with acceptance they learn to love. What parents, teachers and all in a position of power need to know is that they must protect children from exposure to violence and trauma if they are to be peace-loving and tolerant.
Are we doing that? Not really. Look at what television shows its viewers, or worse still what is circulated on WhatsApp or posted on social media, and you will understand why we are becoming so belligerent. Even the much-touted Single National Curriculum prefers silence on this issue and the words ‘peace’, ‘love’, ‘rawadari’ or ‘amn’ figure nowhere in the eight files posted on the federal education ministry’s website.
Anniversaries serve a purpose – they remind of what was. We Pakistanis have just marked Independence day arrived at 73 years ago. And then, almost exactly a fortnight later, in accordance with the Hijri calendar, the whole Muslim world as Muharram commences, honours—as it has through centuries—with the profoundest reverence the martyrs of Karbala: Despite their lineage they were martyred by people who ‘shared’ their faith, but betrayed it and conflicted for temporal gain in personal ambition to wrest political power. What gives an otherwise common enough conflict sublimity is the martyrs: their personal identities and steadfastness to the right course. Resonating along with commemoration of their historic courageous stand is the love all Muslims feel for ‘Al-i-Rasool right across and through the bitter sectarian divide(s) the aggressors at Karbala unwittingly originated . . . And so back to Pakistan at 73 and its declared Muslim identity: Divided, exclusive, inclusive, mangled, antagonistic, devout, fanatical, misunderstood, exploitative, exploited . . . Could we dare this August 14 look into the mirror without flinching?
CONVENTIONALLY women are referred to as weak and fickle. They are also dubbed as cowardly. But all these labels have been given by men in a patriarchal society. It is unfortunate that many women have internalised these qualities and thus reinforce the male perception. One has to be grateful for those fearless women — whose numbers are now growing — who continue to defy the stereotypical image to keep reminding society that women are inherently strong and resilient and are capable of meeting the most difficult of challenges they face.
Last week, we were reminded of this truth when Khairo Dero, a village in Sindh, experienced a harrowing incident. I feel a sense of belonging when it comes to Khairo Dero, and the news of the attack on Ramz Ali literally shook me. Ramz is the project manager of the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust that Naween Mangi has set up to promote the development of this small and charming goth in district Larkana.
Ramz is the gentle and kind and honest-to-the-core soul who runs the various projects of the Trust with a firm and efficient hand. Ramz is also the father of my best friend in Khairo Dero, four-year-old Sitara.
TODAY is the anniversary of our freedom from colonial rule. Aug 14, Independence Day, is traditionally celebrated with much fanfare with messages from the top leadership. It is the same this year. Why should we not celebrate? After all, under the British Raj we were denied many freedoms. If the East India Company had not been given a charter, the course of South Asian history would have been different. But this is no time for speculation, for there are so many ifs and buts to be considered that it is best to put them aside.
GRATITUDE. Pride. Appreciation. These three words sum up the sentiments of the patients I talked to on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Donor’s Clinic at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT).
Abida Zahid had given a gift of life to her younger sister four years ago when her sibling had end-stage renal failure. Farman Raza was another donor who gifted a kidney to his brother in 2012 when he fell critically ill.
M.H. ASKARI, my colleague in Dawn and an Urdu short-story writer of eminence in his youth, wrote about his experience of joining the Anglo-Arabic School in Daryaganj in the late 1920s. On the first day, his principal asked him, “Will you study Sunni Deeniat or Shia Deeniat?”
Not being aware of the sects, Askari went home and asked his father Mirza Mohammad Said, an outstanding scholar who was widely acknowledged and had been Patras Bukhari’s teacher at Government College Lahore. Prof Said promptly replied, “My son will not study any Deeniat at school.”
A CONFIDENCE deficit is afloat. Will it reach the floor of the House?
With an increasing frequency the media’s elect and select fret out loud over the content and style of current governance, and what to do given variously perceived hazards to national security those in charge seem unware of. Actually the parliamentary system and our constitution – despite curtain calls or Muqarrirs of Zia’s Eighth Amendment – is quite clear as to the protocols of a vote of no confidence. But, since President Alvi can’t do a President Leghari on the PM; and the opposition is constrained and severely handicapped and has egg on its face over the no confidence motion moved against the Senate chairman, there is cause for debate as to whether the rescue service for democratic letdowns lies in a major systemic shakeup rather than parliamentary vacillations:
What sage and smooth analysts argue: is the point of recycling leaders and parties that have been tried and been found wanting twice, even thrice, over? Even the brand new party whose leader had been jostling to win the PM cup for twenty-two years and finally reached the finishing line remains, despite the passage of twenty-two months, at a loss in victory.
THE underlying cause of what is currently termed as ‘confusion’ in our political discourse is a deficit of trust. Simply put, it is the paranoia that has subsumed people from all walks of life, causing them to distrust others. Can you blame them when they have been deceived so often?
Take the case of the pandemic. On June 19, a very eminent infectious diseases specialist, Dr Naseem Salahuddin, wrote an excellent article in this paper explaining the pandemic, the emergence of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19 and the need for a lockdown. According to her, we have already crossed the Rubicon. She attributes the failure to win the full cooperation of the masses on SOPs to “poverty, illiteracy and dense populations” as well as “ingrained habits”. Hence she appeals for specialists to be given the opportunity to explain what the pandemic really is.