VCs fail to come up with conclusive strategy for countering extremism

Call for inclusion of ethics, societal values and ethics of disagreement in the curriculum


Riazul Haq November 21, 2017
ILLUSTRATION: KIRAN SHAHID

ISLAMABAD: The vice chancellors of about 80 universities failed to reach a consensus on a common ground after a day long discussion to find ways to counter extremism on campus.

This was the third meeting on the same issue after students of higher education were found to be involved in terrorist incidents in Lahore, Karachi and other cities but a collective narrative is yet to be built at national level.

The Vice Chancellors’ Conference was held at International Islamic University Faisal Campus in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Monday. The conference was to focus on the ‘Role of Universities in Advancing National Narrative to Counter Violence, Extremism and Terrorism.’

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During the conference, the VCs were divided into four groups and were later asked to share their recommendations in the concluding ceremony

One of the major aims of this huddle was to take into consideration the challenges faced by Pakistani universities owing to the intolerant behaviour and radicalization in society. They also worked on finding out ways on how the youth could contribute to the debate on the reconstruction of Pakistani society.

The joint declaration, released at the end of the meeting, stated that inclusion of ethics, societal values and ethics of disagreement should be part of the curriculum. “It should be imperative to engage youth in useful academic and social activities that promote professionalism, ethical conduct and tolerance,” the declaration read.

One of the VCs, who was part of the discussion, stated that (as a nation) “we talk a lot without looking at the concrete outcome.” He also lamented that the conference should have issued specific recommendations instead of the generic talk about challenges and symptoms of terrorism the nation was facing.

VC University of Sargodha Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad told The Express Tribune that in his university he had taken steps to face the menace in a practical manner by establishing an ethics policy, year-long calendar for co-curricular activities besides formulating standard operating procedures for the security of the varsity. “We have to take practical steps towards materialising such plans,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, some of the VCs also talked about the lack of autonomy they have while choosing a registrar, treasurer and other top slots. They said that this was hampering their resolve to work independently against the menace of terrorism and governance.

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To this, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed expressed surprise and recommended the HEC chairperson to finalise a draft and share it with parliament. “I will also say empower the VCs and ensure the dignity of faculty,” he suggested.

The PML-Q senator also claimed that many politicians sitting in parliament did not encourage education in their constituencies because it could be a driving force for social change. He added, “A cohesive strategy is needed to erode this menace [of terrorism].”

IIUI Rector Masoom Yasinzai when approached said that omissions and commissions were a routine matter and stated that it was not a failure that they could not come up with solid recommendations.

“We will put the declaration on the HEC website and comments from other VCs and educationists will be sought and then we will be in a position to come up with something more concrete,” the rector added.

Meanwhile, the HEC chairperson assured The Express Tribune that the commission was already taking measures to tackle the menace of terrorism. He added that Monday’s meeting was called to discuss the over-arching issues of the universities.

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