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Our kind of education: Students kafalat plan

Our kind of education
March 10, 2008: The Punjab governor has described education as the answer to terrorism. This sounds like a cliché, given the fact that so much has been written about education and the social ills that it staves off. There is, of course, no denying the fact that it is a vital weapon against scourges of many kinds, including a terrorist mindset. But when, despite plenty of sensible advice on the subject, there is no effort to improve standards, it becomes clear why the kind of education we have in Pakistan can hardly be considered as the appropriate tool. The statistics are telling. As opposed to the recommended four per cent, a mere 2.3 per cent of GDP is allocated for education in a country where only half the adult population is literate. Enrolment rates may be increasing but are offset by the population growth rate and high number of dropouts, which at the primary school level is a whopping 50 per cent - and considerably higher among girls. The decay is palpable: it has manifested itself in the poor conditions of the schools many of which lack even the basic infrastructure. Besides, teacher absenteeism and shortage are as discouraging for students as the poor training of instructors who are simply not equipped to instil the love of learning in young minds. The absence of community participation among parents has also caused the situation to deteriorate. Poverty-stricken parents believe that putting their child to work is infinitely more profitable than the dividends of the formal school sector. This general picture provides an insight into why education in Pakistan can hardly be considered a weapon to fight terrorism.

But, where education is concerned, it is not only its enervated state that is responsible for our failure to combat terrorism; it is also the content of what is being taught. Educational reforms have long been in the pipeline, especially after the events of 9/11. Before that - and the trend continues - a whole generation fed on obscurant ideologies propagated by madressahs emerged to wreak devastation in the world. Terrorism, in fact, became a part of education. However, it would be unfair to pin the blame on madressahs alone. The seeds of regressive thought have always been there in the national curriculum. The glorification of the armed forces and jihad, the subjugation of feminist thinking, the focus on religious and nationalist ideology and constant moralising and prudery continue to have their impact on malleable young minds. It is not the spirit of enquiry that is being infused in children; they are being subjected to dogmatic interpretations of whatever is perceived as the universal truth. This stunts their vision and leaves them open to negative influences. True, it will take years before even the basic steps can be taken to improve schools or to achieve high literacy levels. But there is nothing to stop the emergence of a more progressive curriculum that would open minds rather than lead them towards extremist thoughts. Dawn

Students kafalat plan launched
Rawalpindi: Sultana Foundation, a welfare organisation, has launched 'Students Kafalat Programme' to educate the most deserving students who are unable to continue their studies due to financial constraints.

Giving details about the programme, Sultan Foundation Chairman Dr Naeem Ghani told the journalists here on Sunday that the Foundation is catering to the needs of over 7,000 deserving students belonging to different rural areas of Rawalpindi/Islamabad and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

He said despite that a large number of students are deprived of educational facilities and the Foundation has started this programme to seek philanthropists' help for educating these students and make them useful citizens.

He said that under the programme, expenditure of a secondary school student is Rs 300 while for a college student it is Rs 600 per month. He said any body can contribute under this programme and to finance one student means to make a whole family self-reliant and by supporting this we can bring social and economic revolution in the society.

Dr Ghani said that out of total fee the Foundation bears 75 per cent while students pay only 25 per cent. He said that 45 per cent students are unable to pay even 25 per cent of the fee and the Foundation has also to bear these expenditures.

Dr Naeem Ghani said that the Foundation is running five colleges, two high schools, 25 Masjid schools and, so far, it has delivered education to over 100,000 students besides providing technical education to some 2,000 students who are serving in different departments.

He said that the Foundation is also providing technical education that includes electrical and mechanical engineering, electronics, telecom and computer hardware. Ghani said over three crore students are deprived of basic education and the Foundation plans to expand its network to underdeveloped areas of the country.

He urged the civil society to support them in this noble cause of educating every child in the country. The Nation
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