Alarming levels of discrimination in Pakistan's education institutions: report

Published: October 22, 2019
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PHOTO: FILE

PHOTO: FILE

A newly launched report on education and inequality has found alarming levels of discrimination in educational institutions based on religion, faith or belief and has called for a radical shift and reforms in the relevant laws, teacher training and behavioural transformation of society.

This was suggested as the report on “Education and Inequality: Discerning the Foundation of Citizenry”, was organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad on Monday. The report was jointly conducted by The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and The Institute of Development Research and Corresponding Capabilities (IDRAC).

The study was conducted in five districts of Punjab, including Bahawalpur, Multan, Khanewal, Nankana Sahib and Gujranwala, where around 200 non-Muslim students, 40 teachers and 40 parents were consulted to collect the data.

The report showed that around 60 per cent of non-Muslim students experience or feel that they are discriminated and disrespected, whereas, 70 per cent of the non-Muslim teachers faced discrimination on account of their faith. Similarly, 72% of parents reported that their children were discriminated in educational institutions on account of their faith.

While presenting the findings of the report, IDRAC Executive Director and lead author of the report Amjad Nazeer stated that there is a dire need to undertake reforms to end inequality and religious discrimination in educational institutions.

“There is a rise in incidents of discrimination in educational institutions based on religion, faith or belief,” he stated, adding there are different political, historical, academic and religious elements which are responsible for the collective societal discriminatory behaviour towards non-Muslim minorities of the society.

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Nazeer further said that owing to fear and threat to life, more than two-thirds of affected individuals (about 80 per cent), including students and teachers, never bothered to complain. He urged the need for setting up a specialised body to redress grievances and discrimination against non-Muslim communities.

“Also, there is a need to educate the society to ensure religious tolerance,” he stressed.

Human Rights Activist and HRCP Council Member Nasreen Azhar said that over the years, religious tolerance in our society has declined while bigotry has been on the rise.

“Unfortunately, discrimination prevails at all level of society and there is a state of denial on such extreme level of discrimination,” she lamented, adding that unless they accept and acknowledge the problem, they cannot solve the issue.

She urged the government to initiate stringent reforms to end all kind of discrimination and build a society based on the principle of tolerance and equality.

Christian Study Center (CSC) Executive Director Jennifer Jivan said the findings of the reports and the cases included show the level of fragmentation in the society which is fast spreading around Pakistan.

She said there is a need to change the negative mindset of society through effective reforms measure at the basic education level. For this purpose, she urged the government to implement the international conventions and treaties, which Pakistan has signed and ratified, regarding the elimination of all kinds of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief.

Progressive writer, historian and poet Ahmed Saleem said that to ensure equal rights for every citizen and to end all form of discrimination, there was a need to bring about drastic changes in the Constitution.

“There should be an open debate in the parliament for drastic reforms in the constitutions,” he stressed adding it is now everyone’s responsibility, especially the intellectuals of society, to strive for a tolerant and progressive society.

SDPI Advocacy and Outreach Director Moazzam Shareef Bhatti, while moderating the seminar said that the report is a good contribution to the literature and will help the policymakers for informed decision making. He said inequalities, discrimination and intolerance remained a major challenge of the country which requires urgent attention to ensure a peaceful society.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2019.

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