Usually when discussions about human rights take place in Pakistan, it is pointed out that the passing of resolutions and bills in legislatures is not enough. Pakistan has enough laws that if implemented properly, would result in a much better state of affairs with regard to both criminal and social justice. The real problem, it is said, is the lack of implementation of these laws. They are not widely accepted as standards of behaviour, either by the people or by the enforcement agencies responsible for ensuring that they are followed. In order to establish respect for human rights and for the laws protecting these, our education system needs to be modified to teach young Pakistanis the importance of both.
It is for this reason that the Sindh government was directed to include human rights into the school curriculum in the province, starting from the academic year 2015. The education department has announced that it has done so and textbooks up to the Intermediate level are being designed to include chapters on human rights. The department claims that these additions to the curriculum have been carefully devised by educationists and child psychologists, and explain human rights as defined in the Constitution. These efforts to teach students empathy towards their fellow human beings are appreciated especially since the last time our textbooks made the news, it was because an Intermediate-level sociology book was found to describe the Baloch as “uncivilised”. If our children are instead taught to respect the rights of all human beings equally regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity that would indeed be a welcome change. It remains to be seen whether other provinces follow suit and also whether the new textbooks will deliver on the promises made by the education department regarding their meticulous design. Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction and it is hoped that the textbooks will include such topics as gender equality and the rights of minorities as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2016.
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