IN tandem with Islamabad, the Sindh government has announced that the students who were scheduled to sit for their Grades IX to XII Board examinations this summer will be promoted to the next class without being tested.
In the absence of an alternative, this can be deemed to have been a sensible step. Moreover, the fact is that the exams we have been holding for the last several decades are no less than an ‘immaculate deception’. They are rife with corruption, and candidates resort to unfair means while massive sums change hands to manipulate results.
As a consequence, the real learning outcome of the students is appalling. Education in Pakistan is exam-oriented and these exams are a farce, leaving no incentive for the students to study. For them, it is a paper chase for the certificate/degree.
Now is also the time for the government to come clean on its failure to educate the children of this country as it is required to do under Article 25-A of the Constitution. The pandemic lockdown and the disruption it has caused are a blessing in disguise. The government should now rise to the occasion to bring about radical changes in our education system.
FOR all the children of the world – be they in the West or the East, in Pakistan or in the US – the pandemic lockdown has been a trying time. Their lives have changed drastically. They cannot go out and play as they have normally done.
Those who are young can’t even understand what is happening and why. Even those who are old enough to read books or listen to stories from their mothers are at a loss because this new phenomenon has not been written about much and definitely not from the point of view of young readers.
IN these trying times of lockdowns, I have found relief in books. Currently, Michelle Obama has brought me the comfort I was looking for. America’s former first lady’s memoir, Becoming, grips your attention with its lucid style. It also gives you a graphic insight into the life of the African-American community, whose struggle has fascinated me since Martin Luther King made his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech more than 50 years ago.
IN his keynote speech at the recent Karachi Literature Festival
(KLF), historian William Dalrymple spoke of the litfests that have
mushroomed in South Asia in a “fantastic” way. There is no denying that
these literary events are crowd-pullers. Dalrymple estimates that India,
which initiated the trend with the Jaipur Literature Festival — the
most well attended in the world — in 2004, now has 60 litfests a year.
He spoke of 10 being held in Pakistan, though I am not clear how he
arrived at this figure.
THE 2019 Annual Status of Education Report (Aser) launched recently
is the ninth in the series. No other knowledge assessment exercise in
Pakistan of this nature has been so sustained. Though there was a gap,
its overall performance has still been good. It serves as a reliable
yardstick to measure the quality of learning in the country especially
in the rural areas where the majority of the population lives.
IF a child of seven is separated from his family to be sent to a
village 50 kilometres away to attend school, how would it affect him?
Obviously, it would be traumatic. The pain and anguish of separation
would be deep for him as well as his mother.
Such a situation would also make me feel a surge of anger against
those responsible for creating such oppressive conditions that leave
parents with no choices but ugly ones: send the child away for the sake
of his future or keep him home to remain illiterate for life. That is
what Balochistan has been reduced to.
ACCORDING to the 2017 census report, nearly 63 per cent of Pakistan’s
population lives in the rural areas. For a developing country, this
poses many challenges in terms of equity and disparity in the
distribution of resources and development funds and planning expertise.
As is economically feasible, more attention is paid to the development
of urban areas. They are the seat of government where population density
makes the development process more cost-effective due to the economies
of scale. Since the rural areas don’t offer similar advantages they
suffer, notwithstanding their larger population.
But that doesn’t justify the neglect of the rural hinterland. Such an approach has a damaging impact on the lives of more people. Given the government’s limited resources, it cannot divert huge amounts from the cities to disadvantaged regions where the population is scattered. As a result, the country is experiencing a high urbanisation rate as people move in large numbers to the cities from villages, creating problems of another kind. Moreover, this unplanned transfer of population upsets planning.
LYARI and Boston. A world separates them. But they have a common
connection. Coach Emad. That was the young man of 24 with a passion for
football. He passed away in May 2018 leaving his family shattered. He
died “of suicide”. That is how his mother, Atia Naqvi, a psychologist,
Mental illness is on the rise in our society, she tells me. It can
lead to suicide. Yet we do not want to talk about it because of the
double stigma. Mental illness is “disgraceful” but suicide is worse.
MAHNOOR is 13 years. She studies in the afternoon shift of a school
in Neelum Colony. Mahnoor is often late for class because she babysits
her six-month-old brother. Her mother is a domestic worker and is away
from home the whole day. Mahnoor can go to school only when her
nine-year-old sibling returns home from his school to take charge of the
The failure of population planning in Pakistan has robbed many
Mahnoors of the joy of childhood and has impacted their education. It
has also frustrated our policymakers who have another story to tell. The
backlog of 22 million out-of-school children in the country may never
be wiped out as 4m new aspirants join the list of admission seekers
annually. The government’s capacity to open new schools is limited.
WITH only 42 libraries for a population of 16 million, Karachi can well be said to be starved of food for the mind. It is a different matter that not everyone is interested in
nourishing the intellect. Boutiques and shops selling exquisitely
designed fabrics and dresses outnumber bookshops. The libraries, though
in inadequate numbers, have a vacant air.
Hence, it was a brilliant idea of the organisers of the 60th
Children’s Literature Festival (CLF), held recently in the metropolis,
to include a session on ‘Popularising Libraries’. It was sorely needed.
The organisers claim that nearly 25,000 children attended the festival,
which was initially launched nine years ago, with the idea of
introducing books to children. And libraries are an integral part of
creating a culture for books and reading. It would be interesting to
know if any of the schools that were in attendance considered it
worthwhile to introduce some of the ideas that were discussed in the