Inspiring change

By Zubeida Mustafa

EDUCATION in Pakistan has not proved to be the catalyst for change that a dynamic and enlightened knowledge sector has been in many societies. The socio-cultural stagnation has been made worse by the lack of motivation in the teachers.

They can be the change-makers — many are playing that role at an individual level — that we so badly need today. But collectively, they are not.

An environment of despondency, lack of good training/knowledge on account of the breakdown of the education system and the absence of confidence has robbed the teaching profession, with a few exceptions, of its inherent capacity to inspire students. This is not good for the self-esteem of teachers. Nor does it help them in their teaching.

Hence the present state of degeneration in this sector that has had a profound impact on society.

The spirit of tolerance must be part of the teaching experience.

Against this backdrop, the movement called Badal Do (change) launched last month holds out a lot of promise. Spearheaded by seven organisations that have joined hands to form a consortium, it seeks to “change the way the students are being taught” and “to change the way the teachers are taught too”.

Thus Badal Do hopes that the spirit of tolerance, inclusion, harmony and happiness will become a part of the teaching experience and will then be transferred to society.

Its assumption is correct. It is an established fact that what children learn at an early age becomes an integral part of their personality and ingrains in them the values they learn. But one should remember that our present generation of teachers are themselves the products of a system that had been corrupted and undermined first by the nationalisation of schools and colleges, then by their subsequent denationalisation and privatisation and finally by the use of faith. This was done through administrative sanction and the brave souls who resisted it are no longer among us.

Hence the need for the re-education of teachers, not so much in pedagogy as in our lost values and the love of knowledge per se.

The fact is that these need to be passed down to the younger generation. Teachers are the most effective medium as one teacher interacts with thousands of students in the course of his or her professional life. But there are so many others who also have an impact on children’s lives — the most notable being parents and other professionals. Hence they were also invited to participate.

That is why the authors of Badal Do have promised to make it a movement rather than just a campaign, embracing primarily teachers, but also other stakeholders. After all, each of us is a teacher — may be not in the formal sense but informally. Initially, 400 people — mostly women but a number of men too — enrolled for the workshops that are planned for this year.

The nature of the training would depend on the areas of activities of the seven-member organisation which include the Teachers Resource Centre, The School of Writing, Children’s Museum for Peace and Human Rights and others including two advocacy groups.

I dropped in as an observer at the CMPHR’s first workshop a fortnight ago. The hall was chock-a-block with people. The atmosphere was vibrant. Issues such as peace, tolerance and diversity came under discussion with the participants being encouraged to think. They were also nudged to change their perspective of issues which I found very interesting. A very informative talk by economist Kaiser Bengali set the tone, forcing the audience to think about issues.

Will such an exercise bring about the change we are looking for? Badal Do may be a drop in the ocean but it is something that must be tried as it could lead people in a positive direction. My experience tells me that of the people present in the hall that day practically all would have returned home duly inspired and full of determination. But in due course the excitement will wear off and quite a few will drop out as they lose interest. A test of their resolve will come in the follow-up sessions which each of them is expected to attend.

But there will still be those who would have been motivated enough to sustain their enthusiasm. They will be the change-makers in the coming years. They will motivate their colleagues and students if they are teachers and thus set the ball rolling.

What is needed is a critical mass of change-makers and mobilisers if the process is to acquire a momentum of its own. This calls for continuous effort for some time.

As for professionals, especially teachers, they need training in pedagogy too. But don’t motivated people learn faster and better?

Above all, to be sustainable and lasting such a movement must be economically self-reliant and generate its own resources. Let indigenous corporate social responsibility step forward.

Source: Dawn