The Battle over Pakistan’s Schools: Can a small group of reformers modernize Pakistan’s schools?
….The fate of Pakistan is dependent on the state’s ability to impart education that enlightens students rather than pulling them into the darkness of obscurantism. Just educating children is daunting enough, but there is also the quality of that education. Pakistan has a shortage of qualified teachers, a reluctance in many parts of the country to send girls to school once they’re considered old enough to help their mothers with domestic chores, and a large number of “ghost schools” that exist on paper, are included in official counts, often receive international funding, but don’t, in reality, function as schools. Pakistan’s DAWN newspaper carried a photograph on April 30, 2009 of a “school” that was being used as a barn for animals. According to Pir Mazhar ul Haq, the Education Minister for the province of Sindh, there were 7,700 ghost schools in Sindh alone. But as the textbooks prove, education is not a word bathed in golden light; what and how children learn is at least as important as the fact of learning itself.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker and trustee of the Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP), a nonprofit organization for cultural and historic preservation, spent time in different madrassas over the course of several years. There, she saw firsthand the language used by teachers to indoctrinate students. Not quite 1 percent of Pakistan’s 1.7 million school-going children attend madrassa (as opposed to the 66 percent who are educated within the formal education structure), but the number is still sizable and the indoctrination process isn’t confined to the madrassa system alone.
Using what they learned during a three-day workshop at the Museum of London and a baseline survey of government schools in Karachi, which confirmed the degree of hatred taught in schools as well as the lack of critical thinking, the individuals at CAP put together a “parallel curriculum.” They then set about using their contacts in the NGO world to find several schools across Karachi that would allow them to send in a team to teach their curriculum alongside the government curriculum for a few hours a week. When I first heard of this, I imagined “the team” as a vast and complex organism, but it turned out to be two twentysomethings, Adnan and Sana, along with two technical assistants.