ISLAMABAD: A majority of problems in our society are due to social injustice, intolerance and lack of peace. There is no denying that brokering peace and tolerance in our upcoming generation will solve a plethora of problems.
These were the opinions expressed at a panel discussion on brokering peace, tolerance and citizenship in classrooms, as part of the two-day Children’s Literature Festival at Lok Virsa.
Panellists discussed techniques and tactics to promote these values in students.
Physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy highlighted that our education system is feeding lies and hatred to children. He said the hope for future generations is vision and wisdom to realise that peace and tolerance is the only way forward. He encouraged children attending the session to believe that we are not the best.
“Don’t ever believe that there is no one better than you, because that is the cause of most problems,” he said.
Author Rumana Husain backed Hoodbhoy’s statement and said she was made to believe the same things until she grew up to see things for herself.
“We are sitting at Lok Virsa and we need to understand that our traditions go further back than 1947; our traditions come from the subcontinent, therefore we need to show tolerance and peace towards other ethnic and religious groups,” she said.
Urdu literature scholar Dr Arfa Syeda Zehra said tolerance and peace should not be taught by preaching religion or fear, it should come from within.
“In order to truly inculcate tolerance in our children, we must encourage them to ask questions, because only with discussion, discourse and questioning will we be able to achieve tolerance for opposing ideas,” she said.
She also criticised the country’s textbook boards for producing plagiarised, unoriginal course books. She also suggested that higher quality textbooks, such as the ones published by Oxford University Press (OUP), needed to be made more accessible to students.
Educationist Faisal Mushtaq emphasised that peace cannot be achieved in a single day.
“We need to preach peace to teach peace. It can be achieved through dialogue and discourse. Peace needs to be reflected into the curriculum; children must be taught that it is a journey and not a destination,” he said.
Mushtaq added that teaching peace cannot be restricted to classrooms, and must be practiced and reinforced in classrooms and in homes.
OUP Managing Director Ameena Saiyid said book publishers are making a conscious effort to publish books that preach peace and instill tolerance in students and young children.
She read out a few lines from a book written by Hussain, published by the OUP.
“This is an effort from our end to use books and classrooms to make children realise the importance of peace and tolerance,” Saiyid said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2015.
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