In a welcome development recently, the Sindh High Court directed provincial law officers to comment on a petition that seeks to include a human rights subject in school curricula. It aims to push content related to human rights into classroom syllabi, pulling material from the Constitution. This move should be seen as a step in the positive direction for promoting democracy in our country, which includes informing citizens of their basic human rights so that they can recognise when their rights are violated and seek action against injustice rather than silently accept it.
While our Constitution might contain several controversial points on the basis of religious rights and freedoms for some groups, this step can be seen as a start towards developing a prejudice-free society. Providing examples of the injustices committed on discriminatory bases towards innocent people of various groups in society will, hopefully, open the minds of our youth and transform them into tolerating individuals as they enter adulthood. Perhaps, through this education, our young generation will understand that all humans should be treated as humans first. Now that the government has focused its attention on state-run school curricula, maybe it can also work on rewriting discriminatory textbook passages such as those passing judgment on countries with which Pakistan has had a turbulent history, like India. The actions of a people from the past should not be used to judge a newer generation and hatred and prejudice should be excised.
We hope to see a nationwide change in school curricula across Pakistan, not just in Sindh but reaching to the far extents of Fata, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Kashmir. Responsible departments should really take control of the school curricula and education system in helping students view matters of academic importance objectively. In this regard, teachers must also be trained so as not to impress their personal beliefs on students. Their goal should be to train students to form their own informed opinions on matters of religion, politics and morality. We hope to see updates on this issue with the petition being pushed forward so that one day, we may see a tolerant Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2012.