Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I wrote this in a discussion on Gen. Musharraf's (rather than the current administration's) policies towards education in Pakistan.
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Pervez Hoodbhoy has previously written an article by the title of 'Reforming Pakistan's Universities'. It is insightful, to say the least.

In all 3rd world countries questions regarding the movement towards a better tomorrow become, instead, questions of political will and budgetary constraints. It isn't just the case for Pakistan, and education is not the only thing that suffers. (primary health care is a good example.)

Sitting here in Canada, I witnessed the recent debate over the allocation of funds in the budget process for education and health care. The allocators had to contend with the needs of an aging population, and its demand of health care reforms, and an emerging population of young adults and immigrant children with their demands of better education! The percentage of funds dedicated to each cause is a good indicator of where the priorities of the current government stand.

Running the same (layman's analysis) on Pakistan's previous budgets shows the priorities of the Musharraf regime. From day one, this administration has held the view that an economically stable Pakistan is a strong Pakistan. The foremost priority in this regime is NEITHER education NOR arts; it is economics. (please do not confuse this with Gen. Musharraf's personal views regarding education and his appreciation for arts. His views are not pertinent to our problems, but his policies are! As an example, he has repeatedly cited that democracy is the only way forward, but has refused to implement his views as public policy. Similarly, his backtracking from the abolishment of the Hudood Ordinance proves that there is a discrepancy in his personal views and his policy)

It is my belief that even the current tide of enforced enlightenment is NOT to please any foreign masters, but to please FOREIGN MARKETS which demand consistency of policy, enhanced law and order and the encouragement of entrepreneurial skillsets. The war against jihadis is not the war against extremism, it is a war against the destabilization of the flow of money in the form of business development and stock exchange investments.

The granting of university status by the UGC to ill-conceived institutes housed in residential villas, is not for the sake of education, but to produce a work-force that can be labelled as 'professionals' on paper. No doubt, these papers will be presented on one forum or the other and touted as proof that the regime is involved in efforts to eradicate illiteracy, ask for more funds and the cycle goes on and on. Meanwhile, the public will keep believing that their sons and daughters are gaining an expensive education, and the youth will dream of lavish lifestyles, while labs remain without equipment and lectures end without debate or dissent.

Then there is also the complex issue of dealing with religious schools. On this I will just make one point. If religious schools have to register their curriculum, why does the policy not apply to NGO's working in the field of eradicating illiteracy? I don't contend that they are doing any wrong, just that the basis of all policy is consistency. If it isn't consistent, it isn't doing justice. If it isn't doing justice, than its promoting secretarianism and reactionaries in one form or another.

It isn't budgetary constraints that are stopping Pakistan, and it isn't Musharraf's lack of understanding. It is Musharraf's lack of policy, the failings of various bureaucrats at various ministries, the lack of concern for the common good by all concerned, lack of accountability in the implementation process (as opposed to the funding process), the lack of public disclosure regarding policies, and the lack of concern from the public towards the use of the public's hard earned taxes by the government! To blame all this on one man, or to excuse everyone by blaming the 'system' is the easy way out, and it won't be solved by our congregational prayers (no matter who is leading). As Faiz said:
Visaal-e-yaar faqat aarzoo ki baat nahi!