The last week was packed with goodies and three independent, yet still connected events bookmarked the week. In our busy lives, where we live in the world of acronyms and abbreviations, the week had PSL, SDGs and STEM, and the thread connecting the three also had a message of hope for our future.
I will come to PSL part towards the end, but the week started with a national discourse on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Islamabad. The UN SDGs are a list of 17 goals that each UN member has agreed on to achieve by 2030. From improvement in environment to equity in access of basic health and education services, the goals are rich, detailed and chart a path to sustainable development. The two-day meeting, that included some of the most serious thinkers in health and education in Pakistan, tried to identify how our next 15 years ought to be better than our previous 15. It asked pointed and difficult questions about why the children living in some of the most fertile regions of Pakistan are malnourished, why Pakistan continues to lag behind its neighbours in access to basic health services and why the rates of non-communicable diseases are among the highest in the world. The meeting had a flavour of reflection, not of blame. The two-day meeting also talked about something that is both obvious and largely underappreciated. It highlighted that our path to sustainable development is unimaginable without rigorous research, robust academia and a clear strategy to strengthen the pipeline of inquiry and impact. Science education and awareness is not just the pre-requisite for achieving SDGs, it is the only viable avenue to reach them.
This takes me to the second major development of the last week. Pakistan Alliance for Mathematics and Science, with the help of Alif Ailaan, launched their third and final volume on the state of Math and Science education in the country. The third volume identifies the road ahead, with its perils and promise. The polished report, with detailed data at the national and regional level makes a clear case for how to improve our education system, how to fix our schools, how to recruit, train and retain better teachers and how to ensure quality education for all, including those who, because of their disabilities, are often ignored in national discourse on education. The report articulates why we ought to create the office of chief scientist and outlines specific, tangible and achievable goals for federal and provincial governments to increase science awareness, science literacy and sustainability of our educational infrastructure. While the two events, the SDG meeting and the Science and Mathematics report, were independent they both showed that status quo should no longer be acceptable. Yet, they also showed that the future can be, and must be, brighter than the present.
This takes me to PSL. You should ask, what does any of this have to do with PSL? The PSL final in Lahore was sign of our willingness to act. When there is a clear will to make something happen among those in power, it does happen. I am not debating whether the PSL final should have happened in Lahore or not, all I am arguing is that even when the odds are not great, and the dream is elusive, a steely commitment from the political leadership is able to deliver a product, and deliver it well. Even when the naysayers said it couldn’t be done, it worked like clockwork. The PSL final was in response to the demand of cricket in the country, a hunger for change and a willingness to commit the necessary resources from the government.
A persistent demand for better health and an insatiable appetite among all for stronger system of education is all we need. The day we are able to truly convince those in the corridors of power to commit real resources to health and education, we will start to live in a different Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2017.