Good news from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Published: October 5, 2015
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP The writer is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor of Biomedical Engineering, International Health and Medicine at Boston University. He tweets @mhzaman

When it comes to education in Pakistan, the word ‘good news’ is not what comes to mind immediately. The recent plagiarism scandals, dubious qualifications of a senior administrator at COMSATS and an unclear position on whether the Higher Education Commission (HEC) is a watchdog, an institute to set national policy or a grant-awarding agency, continue to cast dark and long shadows of doubt on the future of education in the country. The stories of ghost schools, declining quality and growing intolerance through our curriculum (as has been articulated in her recent work by Dr Madiha Afzal) is also a cause for deep concern.

In this environment of dark realities, something quite different happened last month. The government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) made it a priority to recognise teachers across the province for their dedication, commitment and hard work. There is little doubt that teachers are the frontline foot soldiers of our development and the custodians of future, but it is extremely rare that a government formally recognises their effort through financial support, cash prizes and recognition at the government level. Nearly 1,000 principals and teachers were recognised at a ceremony in Peshawar on September 11 and upwards of Rs50 million were distributed in cash prizes.

While this particular news got buried on the back pages, under piles of political posturing and the same old stories of empty rhetoric between us and our neighbours, this development is particularly important for several reasons. First, we have to strengthen the backbone of our national education system. We have to recognise the role our teachers play, sometimes literally in the line of fire, to educate our future. The quote from one headmistress, Anwar Sultana, is particularly heartbreaking. She noted that in her 27-year-long career “there has never been any acknowledgement or appreciation; not even a letter from any government”. There is little mystery as to why our most gifted students never even imagine themselves as teachers of the future. Apart from the financial compensation, a career with no growth, recognition or opportunity to excel prevents even the best of minds from seriously considering teaching as a profession. If we want to continue to attract top quality teachers to the profession, we have to recognise their efforts. The government of K-P’s efforts in this regard are both urgently needed and highly commendable. I would hope that other governments will follow suit and create similar initiatives, and for the sake of our future, ignore which party came up with the idea.

Second, the fact that the news is coming from K-P is particularly heartening. K-P has not only had to tackle a tough climate of deadly extremist elements from outside the government, it has serious issues to sort within its own ranks of administration. Issues of curriculum reform, where the Jamaat-e-Islami’s vision of education is at odds with those of previous governments and education boards has affected textbooks and the presentation of key elements of our history and heritage. This tension is particularly acute in K-P. In this difficult environment, focusing on teachers and supporting them in their noble endeavour is highly valuable.

Third, we have somehow assumed that any discussion, debate or recognition in education starts and ends with students. The bulk of the effort, whether in the laptop schemes or when it comes to attracting media attention, continues to focus on students with little effort expended on appreciating those who enable students to reach their potential. The recent K-P initiative changes this narrative and brings necessary balance to the fore.

While I have not always agreed with the PTI’s policies in K-P or elsewhere, I am reminded that it was the first party to come up with a clear education policy. As we noted a couple of years ago, while far from perfect, it was a bold and a brilliant step and forced other parties to take education seriously (http://tribune.com.pk/story/514346/debating-education-policy/). In the frenzy of dharnas and other mayhem, a lot has been lost. But not everything. The sparks of right priorities are still there. The winds of commitment can convert these sparks into flames of inspiration and prosperity. The party, province and the country cannot afford to let these sparks fade away.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • bilal
    Oct 6, 2015 - 12:42AM

    Well done PTI.Recommend

  • Mohammed
    Oct 6, 2015 - 2:09AM

    All the Nooras must be cursing this article. The Sharifs only do things for money!Recommend

  • Arifq
    Oct 6, 2015 - 8:45AM

    Dear Writer, lets not break open the bubbly bottles yet! JI did not have the education ministry yet was able to reverse previous Governments initiatives of moderation in text books, another generation lost to extremist point of view thanks to PTI lack of leadership!Recommend

  • indian agent
    Oct 6, 2015 - 10:23AM

    @writer, dont do cosmetic eye wash. i personally know how is KPK health and education status.
    the health department named under DG and SECRETARIAT represent ancient 18th centurat building ,same low and top baboos running it, i give my own personal example out of hundreds, ,i am urologist being placed in child hospitalRecommend

  • Shalom
    Oct 6, 2015 - 10:32AM

    Education is one of the most important issues in Pakistan. Compared to other countries Pakistan spends far less money on education which is a real shame. I am glad that PTI has allocated more money for education. I hope other provinces take note and follow this example. I am glad that this issue is highlighted by the author. Th last government of ANP wanted also to change the texts to make it more liberal and secular. It is sad the new one changed to the old versions of ‘praising only one faith. Recommend

  • Raheel
    Oct 6, 2015 - 10:58AM

    @Arifq:
    It was not modernization but was actually cruel work done by ANP. Have some respect for your country and its past leaders and inventors. Dont replace them with the western ones.Recommend

  • Hassan
    Oct 6, 2015 - 11:09AM

    If the same cash reward was paid in Punjab, it would have given the name of ‘Bribe or Compensation paid to RO’s for Local Government Elections’. Although PTI has also awarded them for helping in Local Government Elections but named it as Appreciation.
    When PMLN do it’s totally wrong and corruption but when PTI do it’s the real appreciation and Good News. Kudo to your justice PTI supporters.Recommend

  • DR Naseer HUSSAIN
    Oct 6, 2015 - 11:16AM

    How long one can live in the glory of media. The stark reality is that since may 2015, my pension case has not moved from one table to the other in the office of V.C of the university of AGRICULTURE k.P.What you call this….THE NEW PAKISTAN OR THE NEW KP.Congratulations.Please convey my greetings to all and sundry.. Recommend

  • nadeem
    Oct 6, 2015 - 11:42AM

    Pakistan will not become a normal, healthy nation unless, in our priority list, we put JF-17s and nuclear warheads below education, healthcare, economy and social welfare. Recommend

  • Oct 6, 2015 - 11:53AM

    It is really very good news, but it very unfortunate that media at large ignored it. Media must act with responsibility with out any political affiliation. There would not have been the same ignorance if it happened in Punjab. Positive news and developments should be given more importance than the negative ones. You can watch comedy shows on newsviewstoday.comRecommend

  • Oct 6, 2015 - 12:45PM

    PTI is the of most great works in kph . education is very important for all people.Recommend

  • Shehzad Shah
    Oct 6, 2015 - 1:04PM

    Well done PTI. Teachers are the most important component of any education system, by far. Now more of the same and less of the dharnas.Recommend

  • sabi
    Oct 6, 2015 - 1:35PM

    Another logical fallacy which shows bad governance.Teachers are not volunteers who needed to be acknowledged and given prizes..they get paid for their services.Instead teachers found not delivering duties properly should be picked up and sacked.Recommend

  • Fawad khan
    Oct 6, 2015 - 1:55PM

    As far as the priorities of pti are concerned, they seem to be far better than all other provinces. Recommend

  • sgrr
    Oct 6, 2015 - 2:41PM

    An educational system can only be reliable if it is reliable in the eyes of leadership of that quarters, therefore, if PTI thinks it is improving then the sons of their leader, Ik, must be enrolled there in KPK’s educational institurions, otherwise, it is all window dressing and nothing else.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Oct 6, 2015 - 3:34PM

    @indian agent: Don’t children have urological problems ?……… at least you have a sense of humor calling yourself ‘ indian agent ‘.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Oct 6, 2015 - 3:37PM

    At least the PTI are trying…..out of 5 they manage to get 2 right or partly right……and that’s an improvement on the past.Recommend

  • Arslan
    Oct 6, 2015 - 6:00PM

    I appreciate what KP govt has done today, but we must remember that this activity of teacher recognition has started in Punjab from 2010, every year lots of headmasters get prizes on their results, and another thing is every year Punjab Government send position holder students to top universities of the world, give cash prizes to them and financially support them with education endowment fund. Hamid Zaman sb i accept Punjab government is wasting money in some schemes but we must appreciate a person who is doing positive things as well. why we are so biased!Recommend

  • Shakil
    Oct 6, 2015 - 9:09PM

    Quality of teachers results in better students and high achievers not mere buildings. KP has addressed the curriculum and then schools teachers and lastly infrastructure for schools with hygeine facilities.

    Police is also making progress, health improvements are in the offing.
    with largest tree plantation in the world for 6 billion trees, they also addressing climate change.

    There still a lot to do with energy though, but good start to set things right!Recommend

  • Waqar
    Oct 6, 2015 - 9:12PM

    I would like to ask is education system is equal for poor and for rich in all provinces
    If this happened in KPK THEN solute for them other wise a useless activity if its happening in any province

    KarachiRecommend

  • Naeem Khan
    Oct 6, 2015 - 10:51PM

    Did ever occur to you and others that it was a deliberated policy by the elite of this country to keep the masses uneducated and ignorant so they may not be a challenge to their perpetual rule. KP has a history of leadership who tried hard to educate the people, huge credit goes to Abdul Qayum Khan who saw to it that Peshawar University and Mardan college were built at an urgent basis. There were also educators in KP who worked day and night to spread the viable educational system but some how something went wrong in the later years. The public school system became irrelevant because certain distortions were introduced in the curriculum for which the nation paid and is paying a very heavy price. We salute the current government for taking the initiative to recognize the services of the educators and we also hope that there will be some purging of intolerance and erroneous history out of schools syllabus. Recommend

  • Umer Khitab
    Oct 6, 2015 - 11:11PM

    Great one..It should have been a beacon of light for the other provincial governments but alas its not the case. The biggest corruption any government can do is to mess with its future in the form of inadequate educational systems. The province of Punjab in general and the city of Lahore in particular has witnessed the most dubious males and females working as university professors or deans or vice chancellors. The group is still strong and the chief minister has decided to appoint these time tested ” Yes Persons” to further harm the future generation. The decline in enrollment at government colleges and universities is a real feather in the cap of the chief minister. And the respectable chief minister is still being dictated by his corrupt advisors who are advocating the appointment of dubious persons as vice chancellors. These persons are ethically and morally corrupt and unfit to be be lecturers let alone be vice chancellors. Come on Mr. Chief Minister do the right thing for once and let the future of this country be as good as the future of other countries. Recommend

  • Azam Khan
    Oct 16, 2015 - 5:15AM

    Bravo PTI, Bravo Imran Khan, Pervez Khattak & the Education Minister of KPK/Recommend

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