KARACHI: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a philosopher, once said, “If you want to destroy any nation, destroy its education first.” It is education that brings about positive change in attitude and enlightens the mind. Access to quality education promotes social cohesion, equality, peace, social harmony and resultantly nips conflict drivers in the bud. Nations of the world have transformed because of the quality education they provided to their youth. Access to quality education should be realised in all circumstances, even during times of disasters and conflicts.
Sindh, which has a legacy of peace, tolerance and respect for diversity, faces multiple challenges ranging from poverty, economic instability, poor governance, inadequate social services, potential threats of terrorism, feudalism and sectarian, ethnic and political injustice. Ignorance on the part of the government, acute poverty, deep-rooted feudalism, lack of awareness and interest of communities in education, and damage to basic infrastructure, have contributed to the pathetic educational standards in Sindh. According to a report from 2010-2011, there are 6.4 million children in Sindh and 59 per cent of them are out of school. Because of lack of education, the looming threat to Sindh’s diversity has led to ethnic and sectarian polarisation and unrest in parts of the province. Sindh is adversely affected by ethnic and linguistic conflicts, tribal feuds, political and sectarian violence and terrorism. In many districts of the province, government schools have turned into ‘ghost’ schools and hire ‘ghost’ teachers who are busy in their private businesses for income generation and still draw government salaries. This deplorable scenario contributes towards a very high number of dropouts and out-of-school children, which can become fodder for militant groups and criminal gangs. The younger generation of Sindh is being strategically deprived of its basic right to education. Such a situation poses a threat to the province’s history of peace, social harmony and tolerance. Therefore, it is the duty of the government to tackle this issue. All other stakeholders, including communities, teachers, non-governmental organisations, the media and others must play their part as well because if peace is to prevail in Sindh, out-of-school children must be placed in schools. Our youth is the only hope for the nation and education and peace are their birthright.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2015.