Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Who Cares about Education in Pakistan?

You know, it's a good time to talk about education in Pakistan--especially with the op-ed in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristoff a couple of days ago that's been so much the talk of the Pakistani chatterosphere (online and off) since.

But this morning, the talk of the town is a piece of news that the Chief Justice (not Iftikhar Chaudhry, the person currently occupying that office) used his influence to get his daughter's grades/marks in High School "improved", to give her a better shot at various things one wants to do after High School and which are based, in Pakistan, often even more on that performance than it is in other places. [I pretty much started my journalistic career with a piece about that process; back in ... oh, another lifetime.]

As usual, you can read a good intro to the topic by Dr. Adil Najam on Pakistaniat.com. He also quotes, in full, the editorial from The News that he very aptly calls "even more dramatic than the story itself".

Now, since Education in Pakistan was pretty much the family business in my parents' generation, and having spent an agonizing 7 years at the receiving end of the government-run part of it myself, I have only one comment on the whole brouhaha; and to express it, I can only quote, with a small amendment, Amrita Pritam's tour de force:
ik ro'ee si dhi Punjab dhee thoon lakh-lakh maray veen;
jub lak-haan dhiyaan rondhiyaan tho kith-hay Waris Shah?

[One daughter of Punjab wept, and you wept millions of tears;
When thousands weep, where are you to be found Waris Shah?]
Why is this specific case of malfeasance news? Our education system was all hunky-dory till now? I remember one particular time in my own life, the night before an exam at the end of 12th grade when it first hit me up-front, and personally, where it really hurt, how messed up the system was--and I was doing rather well in it till then. But back then, I was just the son of a Professor in the sarkari system; I as just a middle-class kid in a middle class neighbourhood. Today, well, today, you're reading my blog post, and The News, and Naeem Sadiq--who, like I do now, lives "uptown"--and all the nice English-medium Brown Saahibs Imran Khan talks about, and maybe even the New York Times, care about the system that none of them or their kids partake in. [Which reminds me of another story, but I've gotta get back to my day job.]

Cross-posted on the iFaqeerProgressiveIslam.org, Pak Tea House, Doodpatti, by Tohfay blogs.
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