By Umer Raza Bhutta
The below piece is written in response to an article “TOM is for TOMCAT” published in The NEWS of Sunday December 19, 2010. The below article was addressed and sent to the author of that article. It was written in response to the mail received by the author of that article. (email is reproduced at the end, while taking out the name of the author of Sunday’s article)
By Umer Raza Bhutta
I had been a regular visitor of SOS village until few years ago. This was the time when I was working with a hotel chain and we had a regular program of Corporate Social Responsibility. This program, courtesy the corporate organizations lust for publicity, had at the end of the day, earned something worthwhile for underprivileged areas and people. While visiting SOS I once had a chance to have a sitting with few of the kids from the SOS village school. These young junior school kids had, this school and its surrounding, as a whole world for them. While I was discussing with them as to what do they do in the evening. Kids joyously told me that they study, play and then watch TV. They further told me about their ideas to fight with the enemy (India, in this case) and will liberate Kashmir. I was amazed not only to listen to their ideas but also to see the light and enthusiasm in their eyes and actions. On probing further I got to know that they watch only PTV (as per the control exercised in the SOS) and of course go through usual curricula in school. I do not want to emphasize as to why they watch only PTV or if only controlled TV watching is good or bad. My point is that these constitute the main chunk of the population of Pakistan. Our kids who go to the modern-day schools, may constitute only 10 % or even less, of the total population of school going kids. Rest are those who still go to the government-owned schools and go through the same curriculum. However, the kids that we are talking about, supposedly are those who might have a substantial SAY in the future policy making and establishment of our country. These kids are part of that civil society, which though small in number, yet thinks that it controls the power and might influence the rest of un-civil society. Hence, though unwillingly, yet I have to concur with you as we have to control the education system of these entrepreneurial (begum sb. operated) schools, since these may produce the future monsters. These monsters, will be genius enough to change our mind according to their own learning and may discard our’s.
I thought a lot about the idea of HOW I can make a difference towards the education system. This, as many will agree is not an overnight work, not even of few years, but may spread over decades. These influential schools of 10 %, at the outset, should be governed by a body by the government with strong regulatory framework. The regulatory body must advise and later audit the content of the curriculum. Just for example in the school where my daughter study, she is learning mathematic question by solving questions involving Pounds Sterling instead of Pak Rupee. I find it difficult to explain to her, as she asks, where do we use pounds and when we go to shop you do not use pounds? She further asks why don’t they write Rupee?……our entrepreneurial schools are just using what is given to them. To my utter surprise the other day, there are books in the kids library of school which have stories of pigs. Cannot say further on this issue. These schools are a clear spot on the face of our rulers claims that they want similar education for all. I have studied in a government-run school, but now I am sure including me, no one who can afford (with some difficulty too) to educate its kids in these private schools, think of going towards the government schools. Our ministers and our rulers included in this category. The government schools are for those who are amongst the lowest middle class to the poorest class of the society.
Just to add further spice here, I must add another story here. There is a government owned school in one of the posh sectors of Islamabad i.e. F 6/2. The school is surrounded by houses of billionaires. These billionaire’s kids, of course do not go to this school. They sit in their Land Rover and go to some other school of “their” category. I happen to pass through that school quite often. The school is a purpose build government owned building. Which is decorated with style of basic patriotism and honesty engraved on its walls. However, one wall of the school in the ground is demolished and never built again. Nearby residents are using one portion to throw their garbage. The window glasses are broken and the toilets are as dirty and badly kept as they belong to GTS bus Adda. To add further, if you visit the school at the break time and go towards the backdoor of the school (which is not exactly the backdoor, but since there is no boundary wall at the back, so school students use this as a shortcut to the market). At the back you will see, across the road another school, which allows entry of parents by cards and only designated driver can come to drop and pick the kid. The break time is same for both the schools and students of both schools pass each other at the same time. Only difference is that one part of the same generation and same country/city, walk its way towards the nearest bus stop and the other part while sipping a cola goes by on the back seat of a four-wheeler. Both of these part may not see, at this time what I see, but I am sure both of them are registering in their mind something, either a hatred or an arrogance.
Purpose of above is to provide an idea for action. While bringing government towards making a regulatory body is far cry (though must be attempted and inshallah will be) we must not stop from what we can do now. The government schools may need a revised curricula too, but when I talk about action and moving forward from articulation of ideas and rhetoric I mean doing what is in my hand at this point in time. We can begin providing some infrastructural support to these schools. In this the corporate sector’s “Corporate Social Responsibility” can play a role. The government school as mentioned above may become one sweet example/modal under our nose. I have planned with my company (though I am still in the convincing stage) to provide basic infrastructural support to this school. The cost is not too high, and I already have certain examples from some friends who are and have supported such initiatives in some other areas. However, this role has to be taken seriously. When I said that our media is just raising questions and filling up the air time, I meant that they must close the door once opened and must follow through. If our media men have changed many other things, they can change this too.
Text of the email exchange:
Sent: Monday, December 20, 2010 4:07 PM
To: Umer Raza
Subject: your consent
My editors and I both found your comments very apt and informed. My editors would like to use it in the editor’s post section. Need your consent to do that.
If you agree, kindly give your full name, address and occupation. Only your name and city would be printed below your letter and it might be edited for purpose of brevity.
Name of the author
On 12/20/10, Umer Raza firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
I read your article, in NEWS on Sunday with interest, as I felt the
same way when I saw my daughters books and attended one of the
orientation sessions at my daughters school. My point of writing to
you is not to mention about the different and difficult things taught
these days, but it is to concur with you and to register my support.
At the end of the article, when you say to get up and take notice,
what exactly do you want by this? What is on your mind? With due
apology, on the one hand where I agree with you, on the other I feel
that all our journalists, writers and anchors just tend to raise
questions and do not 1) have answers 2) do not follow up with the
questions raised. They are equally a part of the society and when they
open a door they must follow it up and close the argument as well.
Though, easy said than done, yet I feel I am looking forward for a
response from you so that I can help support this idea and work
towards enriching and/or bringing the education system back on track.
You can write back to me and let me know as to how we can support.
For your information, I am Head of Human Resources at a multinational
company in Islamabad, I am a writer of a book and occasionally deliver
motivational lectures to students at different universities.