Sorry honey, mama’s too busy for you

The murder of Riphah University’s vice principal received a flood of comments - some bewildered, some ridiculous.

Vaqas September 13, 2011

The recent murder of Riphah University’s vice principal in Rawalpindi received a flood of comments on The Express Tribune’s website, some opinionated, some sympathetic, some bewildered, and some ridiculous.

The most befuddling though, was a string of sentiments in favour of this embarrassment for the human race; ‘oh he must’ve given him bad marks’, ‘oh, the teacher was mean’, ‘oh the fees were high’.

Incidentally, the ludicrously incorrigible command over the academic lingua franca of the country, displayed by the aforementioned empathisers, is, in a word, not good.

Sorry, I know that’s two words but I don’t want to scare readers off with more verbosity (darn, I did it again).

The gunman was a flunkie. Not just a guy who failed a course. Or two. Or three. But more like a dozen, because that is how many you would need to fail to spend the better part of a decade on a five-year degree.

The death of anyone is a saddening, but when death is as avoidable as this one, it is genuinely tragic. After all, this man died for doing his job. Plus the fact that if the gunman knew how to aim, the death toll could and would have been much higher.

One of the biggest obstacles to education reform has nothing to do with the universities themselves. It has to do with the attitude towards education prevalent in the country, especially in the upper and middle classes. Young people regard university education as a birthright, when it is anything but that. Access to education is a birthright. The right to attend a high quality institute is an earned right. For that matter, even the right to attend a university operating out of a house is an earned right, except that has less to do with intellectual achievement and capacity and more to do with the depth of one’s pockets.

Teachers are supposed to be parental figures. After all, they spend more time with a child than most parents do. Having practiced the profession, this is something that I know is true. Parents, except for the rare committed ones, work on the assumption that once their kids are in school, all obligations to improve them as people are transferred to the teachers. When kids don’t do their homework, it’s the teachers fault. If they flunk a test that they’ve known of for weeks in advance, it’s the teacher’s fault. If they pick a fight in school, it’s the teacher/other student’s fault (never mind that the chaand ka tukra in question is about four inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than the other kid, ie the real bully).

There are some things that children can only learn in school. But there are many others that they can only learn at home. Love, tolerance and equality can be spoken of in school, but when a kid goes home to be greeted by hate, intolerance and gender biases, they will grow into the same stereotypical adults, ignoring the efforts of the braying fool at the head of the class who is wasting his breath explaining to them that men and women are equal, God loves us all, and there is no Nazi-Zionist-Hindu-American-Islamist-Liberal-Fascist-Conservative-Communist-Capitalist-Botswanan conspiracy holding back Pakistanis or Muslims.

Now I could understand when a child with two working parents complained of mom and dad not having the time to help them with homework or even play with them. But what about all of those with ‘housewife’ mums?

I have nothing against REAL housewives, the kind that stay home to do laundry, cook, clean, and do a host of other chores. But how many of those really exist among the upper, and even the middle classes?

With anywhere between one and a dozen servants and maids, housewives in Pakistan, are essentially trophy wives, ruining the image of hardworking women elsewhere. I remember I was subbing for a second-grade teacher once and had a student who was very ill. She was continually throwing up and still felt sick. After no answer came from the child’s home phone, I asked her for her mom’s number (she didn’t remember her dad’s). After persistently calling from a landline and a cell phone between classes as the child’s condition worsened, the mom in question groggily answered and came to school to pick up her child, 45 minutes later, with a fully made up face (as if I or one of the guards were interested?) and apologised, not to her daughter, who I had to carry out by this point, but to me.


For not answering.

Her excuse?

“Me and my husband were out late.”

Then there’s fuss over teacher’s salaries and that they get all that time off in summer. Well, teachers have to discipline screaming children while talking for longer stretches than the average politician and with no team of suck-ups to back them up if anyone refuses to behave or listen. Teachers have to put up with childish pranks all day and hope that maybe, just maybe, the child learnt something not explicitly mentioned in any textbook: a life lesson.

Help them. If not for your own sake, do it for your kids. At least make sure they don’t grow up to kill someone.



The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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