Tag Archives: education

Of Humair Ishtiaq, Yasir Pirzada and 50 Minute


Lying forgotten in the myriad of folders was this blog, which i’m finally publishing….

Today, Sunday September 4th, 2011, Humair Ishtiaq and Yasir Pirzada did what 50 minute hadn’t been able to do. And that is, compelled me to write a blog about the Pakistani Youth. Well yes, I can understand your confusion about the title but all will unfold as this article progresses.

Three oft-repeated statements,

 “Percentage of youth in Pakistan is an astounding 63%…!”

“Pakistan is full of talent.”

“Now the future of Pakistan lies in the hands of the youth…!”

These statements fill us with content that all is not lost and somehow, someone somewhere will brandish a magic wand and fix all the problems of Pakistan and that someone will definitely be from among the talented youth of Pakistan!

Aaah if only wishes could come true!

Muhammad Amir

English: Ali Moeen Nawazish's portrait while s...

English: Ali Moeen Nawazish’s portrait while sitting in living room. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, let’s talk about the huge chunk of our 170 million population: The youth. There was a time when this 63% brought a huge smile on my face and my eyes shone with pride and hope. I always thought about Ali Moeen Nawazish and his great 23 As feat. I recounted with joy how Muhammad Amir was making world records at only 17. Not to forget those young singers performing brilliantly in Indian Singing shows: Sara Raza Khan and Shujat Ali Khan to name a few. These names popped in my mind because I recently attended the Eid special show of 50 minute where the above mentioned sang beautifully and literally won me over. Anyhow the point was that thinking about all the talent that our youth has and then the 63% figure, I was always hopeful until I read the following piece by Humair Ishtiaq in today’s Sunday magazine,

“On the global list of median age, there are 55 countries that have a population even younger than that of Pakistan. As many as 46 of them happen to be African. Among the remaining 9, there are four each in the Middle East and Latin America in addition to Afghanistan.

If youth on it own could do much, Uganda should have been the current superpower of the world for the median age of its population is merely 15 years. And, for good measure, it would have faced tough competition coming from Niger and Mali which have corresponding figures of 15.2 and 15.8 years. But they are economic and political non-entities. Because they are unable to educate the young, who then find it convenient to spend time in the wilderness of a lawless existence. We are naturally, much better off than these ill-fated countries, but if downwards is our only direction, it is only a matter of time when we may get bracketed together.”

An eye opener sure it was. Nations prosper because they possess certain traits like a sense of social responsibility and conscience not because of the high percentage of directionless youth that it has!

Nations prosper because of the calm and dignity that they possess even when faced with crisis whether in the form of natural disasters or economic depressions. China refused to take any foreign aid after the massive earthquake which left thousands dead and millions displaced. Similarly after being shaken by a 9.2 magnitude earthquake, the Japanese displayed immense calm and composure. On the contrary what do we see in Pakistan? Billions flowing in as aid, corruption in millions and so all are unhappy with the government. Media does the emotional reporting and increases its ratings. No doubt, a lot of Pakistanis come forward to help the victims but for how long? The intial few weeks, there’s the hustle and bustle of activity but then the poor people are left to fend for their own. Where are we erring? The successive earthquakes and floods have taught us nothing. We are back to point zero after every such calamity.

Nations prosper because of their ability and training to face hardships. Nations learn from their past mistakes. Have we ever done that? No lessons taken at all from either the military dictatorships or the feeble democracies. No increase in education budgets at the cost of defense. Why are we not learning that education is the solution of all problems? Quality education at all levels will give us insightful leaders and politicians. It will eradicate the menace of poverty and terrorism. It will create awareness among people about their rights and duties. It will create an atmosphere of tolerance where people are not prosecuted against on religious or ethnic basis as is now happening in Pakistan.

And most importantly, it will decrease unemployment and the associated crime rate because meaningful education teaches you the skill to make a living even with no investment at all. (This may sound very foolish, but I have examples where the creative mind was more than enough to create employment opportunities. More on that later). So the bottomline is that we must train ourselves to join the rank of the developed countries and not just say empty slogans. It’s said a slogan kills thinking for 30 years so we must not spend the next 30 years saying that our youth is talented and so Pakistan will get fixed itself overnight when this youth comes to power! Instead we must take positive steps to bring a change!

Nations prosper because of their grace and order. You must’ve met that English babu who went abroad in the 60s and 70s to earn bread and butter but has returned to Pakistan after his retirement. All his sentences begin with, “When I was in England…” and then there’s a long list of virtues that the English possess. They make queues. They consider honking rude. They don’t litter in public places and neither do they let anyone else litter. They follow the traffic rules. They are punctual. Their Police is not corrupt. Their democracy is transparent. Their leaders are accountable and so on and so forth. However that same English babu, when in Pakistan would take pride in deliberately throwing that used tissue paper out of the moving car; he would make sure that he never stops at any traffic lights. Why? Because this is home sweet home. Nobody here, follows rules so why should he? Besides what difference would it make if one person paid the taxes? There are a million others who simply waive them and several million who do corruption with the revenue generated. We are a nation with a dead conscience. We pride in breaking rules and then boast of our not-so-holy deeds. How easy it is for our Interior Minister to say, the situation in Balochistan is not as bad as that of Karachi. Only a few people die or go missing everyday in the former whereas the latter has become a battlefield. What a comparison to give?! We listen blandly to news of deaths, suicide attacks, abductions and bomb blasts and then switch the channel saying, ‘That’s nothing new.’ Excessive and in-depth reporting has made us insensitive.

Then what’s the solution? We need to step up to the challenges at hand. There’s a dire need for awareness among the entire population about the importance of social responsibility. We must stop the blame game specifically blaming the government for all ills because, bitter as it may sound, we are an equal party in the gloomy, dismal condition of our beloved country. We as citizens of the state have certain duties which we are not fulfilling at all. How many of us have ever taken part in community service? Picking up that garbage pile outside our houses; shoveling away water after heavy rains; teaching poor children for free; joining social welfare organizations without the tag of an ‘internship’; helping the poor in long term sustainable ways rather than the short term charity ( teaching people how to catch the fish rather than buying them fishes everyday ); spreading the message of peace and love through our writings, debates, discussions or whichever platform we have; sponsoring children for quality education and there are countless other ways to make a difference. The question arises, are we willing to do so? And then the long list of excuses starts…


2011 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Reforms in Pakistani Education System


By Farkhanda Qaiser

It is high time that reforms were brought about in our education system which is deteriorating day by day. Reforms that affect the multitude instead of just benefiting the selected few who acquire higher education in universities. After all we are a third world country whose majority lives below the poverty line -people who earn less than one dollar a day. For such people, education comes last in their list of priorities. Nevertheless ,if they enroll their children in a government school, what do they get? Adults who are not capable of applying their knowledge to everyday life. Who’s the culprit? The Government? Technically incorrect textbooks? Rote learning system? Teachers?

As far as I think, it is a combination of all these factors that have crippled our education system.

First, I would talk about the role of the government, who needs to understand that augmenting the education budget is not a solution to our problems. What we need is a policy change that includes conceptual based teaching instead of rote learning, revised and updated textbooks and a fair paper checking system.

In order to revolutionize the learning process, it has to be ensured that knowledge is imparted to the young brains instead of asking them to cram the textbooks. In fact the basic concept of a particular subject should be taught in such a manner that students are able to relate to and apply them in their daily life.

Let’s take the example of English language taught as a subject in our local schools. Students are required to learn essays from guide books, memorize short stories from the textbook and translate a few passages into urdu. The result is that they are incapable of speaking or writing a single grammatically correct sentence let alone write essays or stories on their own.

Thus the approach to learn a foreign language has to be changed. Students should be encouraged to converse in English during school hours. They should be given unseen comprehension passages in exams. A reading culture has to be developed in which students are encouraged to read urdu and English literary books. Thus making them capable of creative writing and thinking instead of indulging in plagiarism.

Here, an important measure to be taken is to update existing school and college libraries and build new public libraries. Sadly the public libraries are almost non-existent in Lahore unless you count Quaid-e-Azam Library which requires its members to possess a master’s degree and Children Complex Library for children up to 14 years and not more. Where does this leave people like me who are more than 14 years old but have not yet reached the masters level? This is definitely a point for the government to ponder on.

Moreover, the local textbooks are sometimes technically incorrect and outdated especially those of science. The reason being that the world at large is progressing rapidly in science and technology whereas nobody bothers to update these books.

In addition to this, we are told by our teachers that the Matric/FSc board exams are unfairly checked. To the extent that the examiners award marks merely on how neatly and primly headed the paper is without reading the content at all.

This has to be changed so that proper mark schemes are made and competent teachers are enforced on paper checking duties thereby ensuring fair results. Likewise students should also be given the right to challenge their marks and evaluation if they feel that injustice has been done to them.

In short the positive points of the GCE system should be adopted which in my eyes is the best except the fact that urdu is not given much attention. For that the Matric/FSc urdu syllabus-after a few modifications-can be taken up.

Now coming to the second major culprit of our crippled education system-Teachers.

Majority of teachers in government schools and colleges show a cavalier attitude towards students. They teach much better at academies than in colleges thereby forcing students to take additional evening tuitions. This largely increases the burden on the poor children who are driven as a yoyo from one educational institution to another till they are mentally and physically exhausted.

Add to this the teachers’ non committal attitude when they are asked questions. They thoroughly discourage this particular habit, possibly to hide their inefficiency and inadequate knowledge of the supposedly ‘mastered’ subject. Ultimately this results in the students being shy and confused. They are not then properly equipped to face the practical world as opposed to the products of private institutions, who surpass them during job interviews and other competitive examinations.

Therefore the teachers need to enhance their knowledge according to international standards and attend teacher training workshops to make learning a fun experience rather than the drab and dull one that it is now. This definitely includes encouraging the spirit of inquiry as one of its postulates.

Another common problem is the rude and immoral language used by teachers especially male ones in academies. They should realize that they are a source of inspiration for students who are actively absorbing every action of theirs like a sponge. Thus such negative attitude should be discontinued immediately. These spiritual parents of ours should realize that teaching is a noble art that requires commitment and sincerity to produce fruitful results.

In the end, I reach the conclusion that once our education system has been modified by the collective efforts of the government and teachers, it will finally start being beneficial to Pakistan.


The Traits of a Successful Nation Episode 1: Grace


 By Farkhanda Qaiser

After almost 2 weeks, I’m finally able to bring to you the essence of “Magic with Medicine” – the motivational session by Umair Jaliawala. Well yes, that’s the drawback of medical studies; you don’t always get time to pursue your passion, which in my case is writing.

The session which was held on 1st August 2011 in the King Edward Medical University Auditorium had been a great success MashaAllah. A huge turn out of over 350 people ensured that it was so. Just a few days back, I was watching the video recording of this session and I noticed a few things. Sadly, the cream of the nation i.e. the students of KEMU, those who are the toppers of almost all Education Boards in Punjab, are not made for motivational training. And ofcourse this applies to only the ‘Chus group’ who had just come to make a mockery out of the session and have a few guffaws at their self-made juggats…! However hats off to Mr. Umair Jaliawala for the brilliant handling of these ruffians. He laughed with them at their stupid jokes and gave them downright answers to their rude queries which literally shut them off for good. I know I’m using very harsh words for these people but the fact is that their behavior is representative of the core of our national values. We don’t let anyone speak who can’t make himself heard. We’d make fun of those who don’t know how to retaliate the jibes being thrown at them. We’d indulge in leg pulling of someone who’s trying to do a positive and unique thing for his nation. Why?

Because we’ve had no training to respect people for what they do not for who they are! What does our comedy revolve around? During a speech or a lecture, what is it that instantly calls for our applause? Want to know what that is? My heart bleeds at admitting that it is the bistifying of someone that makes us laugh and makes us so happy that we start clapping loudly.

And all of these are not simple statements that I’m quoting from somewhere. These are my observations from attending a few youth conferences in the past. The most recent being YLC 2011. I still remember the way the crowd treated Dr. Awab Alvi and Nigaar Nazar during the breakout sessions. True they weren’t trainers like Mr. Jaliawala who’d know how to tackle any type of crowd but they were experts in their own respective fields where they’d excelled and done marvelous deeds for their country. Wasn’t this enough to demand our respect for them? Well, apparently no, it wasn’t!

Dr. Awab Alvi is a blogger and an activist. During the session, Street Power, he explained to us how he’d mobilized thousands of people around the globe to donate for the flood victims and the earthquake victims before that, through his active blogging and media campaign. For me, this was a huge service that anyone could have done. Let alone a practicing dentist, who had taken out time from his busy routine, from his family life for a cause that wasn’t even his own…and for a cause that wasn’t even apparently rewarding. In the material sense, I mean. Though ofcourse the spiritual reward is always there.

However the audience thought otherwise. They started mocking him for his way of doing things. According to them, buying food items and clothing for the sufferers was not enough. Why wasn’t something done for the longer term rehabilitation like making job opportunities, reconstruction of buildings etc. Then they started laughing at everything that was said by the worthy speaker which obviously threw him off. Some of the girls really got pissed off at this. And then an active debate started with arguments and counter arguments from both sides. The girls believed that for a private entity like the team of Dr. Awab Alvi who were just working as volunteers, it wasn’t really possible to uptake such huge projects as were required for rehabilitation. These projects require ample time and a humongous budget too. And let’s just say that even if it is possible, we can’t belittle the importance of the short term donation campaign in any way. People, who have been severely injured, both mentally and physically, do need that immediate assistance until their life comes back to normal.

Nevertheless there is a stronger lesson for us from this discussion here. We need to be mindful of the feelings of others. Here is a person who spent his day and night to actively serve his people, in comparison to people like us who just sat at our homes or at the most contributed funds to various donation campaigns. He was in the field sweating his blood out while we enjoyed the lazy comfort of our lazy lives and yet we have the audacity to laugh at him! How shameful that is! And how discouraging our attitude must have been to someone who was doing something for his country! Well yes, definitely a food for thought for all of us who have at various times laughed off at people who are the real heroes!

The second name that I mentioned was Nigaar Nazar – the first female muslim cartoonist. Her session was on Environmental Leadership. This lady had devised a unique way to spread awareness about various social issues like the staring phenomenon common in our society; using plastic bags; wasting water; young, brainwashed suicide bombers and countless other similar problems. Her way was through cartoon strips in newspapers and electronic media. Her main characters are ‘Gogi’ and a talkative parrot who elaborate upon these topics in a light, humorous way. The target audience is the children and the mass public. She’s written many cartoon books for this purpose too. All of which she’s compiled in a school bag that she distributes among the underprivileged students for free. However these same bags are sold for a specific price to well-off students of private schools. Educating our new generation about these core problems is very important because they are neither given this education at homes nor at their schools. And Nigaar Nazar, an elegant and artistic woman is doing just that.

Do you have the heart to know what our response was to her?

To no one’s surprise, it was again those guffaws and mindless comments…! Perhaps, watching those childish cartoon strips didn’t appeal to the cool teenagers and early 20’s who were sitting in that hall.

Seriously, why couldn’t they understand the message behind this activity! Those cartoons were not for their entertainment but for the awareness of a sensitive age group who can only be approached through such means. And the purpose of telling them about this activity was so that one of us could help out Nigaar Nazar in her awareness campaign and do something good for the society in which we live…! (Maybe even as part of our post-YLC projects.) But sadly, our cerebrum could not comprehend that!

And now I’ll finally move on to the trait of a successful nation that was explained to us by Mr. Umair Jaliawala and the one that made me narrate all these incidents.


Mr. Jaliawala explained a few traits of a successful nation like Japan and how those traits helped Japan rise from ashes after the nuclear bombings and the frequent earthquakes that shake this little but strong country. One such trait was, grace. When the government distributed food items among the victims of the earthquake, they only bought what they needed and nothing more just so the others could get their share as well.

In contrast, how did the victims of Pakistani flood and earthquake behave? Or for that matter, how do the beggars at various Darbars behave, when free food is being given away? They take as much as they can! And even more than that is required for them! They’d rather waste away extra food instead of letting a deserving person have it.

Why? Because, we are selfish and don’t have either the mind or the time to think about others or how our actions could affect the society at large…! This is where social responsibility comes in…! Here, Mr. Jaliawala narrated the incident of a German restaurant where a few Pakistani friends dined in and left some food in their plates. An old woman who was observing all this reprimanded them on this behavior but Pakistanis as they were, they didn’t think leaving food in their plates was something bad and punishable. When they remained persistent in not cleaning up their leftovers, the lady called up the police. Those Pakistanis were fined and were told,

‘The money may be yours but the resources are not yours.’ The farmers who planted those rice; the ladies who bent down for hours to pick off the ripe wheat; the chefs who cooked that food…all of these people toiled to give you a plate of rice and they used the resources of the country in doing so and you have NO right to waste these resources! If you have more money than you can spend, then you can buy fresh food for the poor rather than leaving them leftovers which reach them through garbage heaps…! This is the thinking of successful nations!

And what do we do when there is shortage of wheat or sugar? The prices hike up. People start stocking these necessities of life to be released only at munh-boli prices. They are heartless about the sufferings of millions due to this action of theirs.

So what are the messages from this piece that I’ve written?

1) No belittling of our national heroes (every person who does something for his country without expecting a reward is a hero, in my eyes)

2) No wasting of food whether in restaurants or at homes.

3) Thinking about the greater good before you do anything. (e.g. Raising prices, stocking food items during crisis is not the way forward at all)

All of us should try to incorporate these traits in our lives. We need to approach the bottom-up approach in which every individual of a society plays his own role. A time will come when everyone will be playing his role and then our leaders would also be from within that society. Then we’d get our Pakistan back, the way it was dreamed of by our founders.

Happy Independence Day and BE the change that you want to see in your country! Till next time, Allah Hafiz!