Throughout history, those in power have used educational systems as a tool for manipulation and control. Socrates was poisoned for ‘polluting’ the minds of youth but in reality he only questioned a mindset informed by a society based on conventionalism.
In Pakistan, the liberty of education was never given, and those fighting for it may not have been poisoned but are certainly silenced. Teachers have been killed, schools have been bombed, and if that did not work, the curriculum taught in schools is now being made more radical. Yes, I am talking about right-wing parties’ recent row on ‘to change’ or ‘not to change’ the curriculum in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
Let’s look back into the curriculum history of Pakistan. The darkest era for education had been the time of General Zia who censored history. The curriculum of Zia was then revised by Musharraf and the PPP government only followed the latter’s suit. The PPP devolved education and made it into a provincial subject, asking the K-P government to include the legacy of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan alias Bacha Khan in the textbooks. The Awami National Party (ANP) was brought to power by the liberal voices in K-P by people in hopes that the curriculum will be changed.
Interestingly, the curriculum change undertaken by the ANP could only see the light of the day a year after the PTI took over the reins of K-P. Imran has, in a great gesture, spoken for uniform education in the province but so far, little of that promise has materialised. He and his party are currently determined upon demanding the prime minister’s resignation, so little attention is being given to the curriculum debate. Officials in the province on condition of anonymity have revealed in media reports that they have agreed to omit pictures of girls without dupattas, added the salam in place of ‘hellos’ in textbook diagrams, included verses from the holy book, replaced the cross symbol with crescent on pictures of ambulances and removed pictures of Christmas cakes.
My question to those considering these changes is: are you completely ignorant of the fact that there are many minorities which share Pakistan and the public education system? Jinnah made a promise to them when he made Pakistan, the promise was never kept as many Sikhs are murdered in the same province in broad daylight and Christians are bombed in their religious gatherings while they pray. Now, textbooks are in the process of getting ‘purified’.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2014.
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