Saturday, March 26, 2011

Adhe Adhoore Khawab: A few lines

Shaista Bibi
PhD Student
Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and Cognition (CoCo)
The University of Sydney, Australia

Adhe Adhoore Khawab, a novel by Dr. Shahid Siddiqui is not merely a book of fiction for me.  The fiction skilfully intertwined with the real issues of society.  If we see around us, we may find characters resembling Prof. Saharan Roy and Imtisal Agha, the two main character of the novel.  The writer has beautifully portrayed the character of Prof. Saharan Roy with multiple layers of roles. He is apparently a teacher but not just a teacher. He is a guide, a friend, a revolutionary and a problem solver for the humanity. He is adored by his friends, his colleagues, his students and by any one who has the feeling of compassion and kindness for the helpless people.  He was considered by the ruling establishment as a threat that must come to an end. He was arrested and tortured until breathed his last in the jail.  But even his death could not stop his message which in the form of his dreams are shared and owned by his students.   
Prof Roy is a guide, a friend, a revolutionary and a problem solver for the humanity.
 Imtisal Agha’s, an informal student of Saharan Roy, shares the dreams of equality, freedom, and social justice.  She like, Prof Roy, believes that education is the way to realise the ideals of social justice, equality, and freedom in any society.  She also believes that this journey is full of difficulties and challenges.  She opts to become a teacher in her village to realized the dreams of a society free of social injustice and oppression.  This is a story of resistance linked with the lives of Prof Roy and Imtisal Agha who believe in resistance and change. 
I read this novel almost two years ago in when I used to teach in a university in Pakistan.  Now that I wanted to write these few lines, sitting in my apartment room in Australia, I thought I might have forgotten everything. But when I started writing about it, everything became so clear in my mind as if I had read it only yesterday. I could see Prof Roy teaching in his class, discussing with his students, having his mock birthday in the hostel, participating in rallies, having intellectual debates with Imtisal, and experiencing torture in the jail.  I could see Imtisal Agha meeting Prof Roy for the first time in the TV lounge, having long discussions with him, buying books with him, meeting with Prof Roy for the last time in jail, hearing the news of her mentor, and finally making a bold decision of becoming a teacher in her village.  This shows the deep impact of the novel on my mind. I’ll always cherish the experience of reading this novel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Curricula Need Revision

The National Conference on ‘Youth for Peaceful and Pluralist Pakistan’
Noor Aftab
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The National Conference on ‘Youth for Peaceful and Pluralist Pakistan’ on Tuesday reached to a consensus that the educational curricula need massive revision keeping in view the vivacity of social, cultural and religious communities of the Pakistani society.

The conference was organised here by Centre for Civic Education Pakistan with an aim to encourage critical and creative ways of thinking and stimulating civic activism to promote pluralism, rule of law and good governance.

Muhammad Nizamuddin, Vice Chancellor of University of Gujrat, in his keynote address made scholarly inputs to explore possible approaches to peace and pluralism with a focus on youth.

He said there is a need to come up with curricula through which resolution of conflicts and differences should be taught. “To make the pluralist ideology part of daily life of the youth we need an ingrained and well thought-out education system,” he said.

He said peace is not the mere absence of war rather it is the presence of justice, equality and human rights. Similarly, he said pluralism is not mere prevalence of diversity rather it is characterised by meaningful engagement with diversity based on ideas of co-existence, interdependence and cooperation.

The first session focused on ‘Education as a fence against terrorism’ and the panellists included Dr. Shahid Siddique, Dr. Agha Nasir, Dr. Sarfraz Khan and Fida Hussain. The session highlighted the role of quality education that deals with ideas and can be the most effective tool to steer young people to better future. It also aimed at exploring contemporary academic discourse and narratives and identifying crucial structures and spaces to promote peace and pursue pluralism.

Dr. Agha Nasir of Balochistan University stressed upon the need to first bring change from within. “We have done what we could. Now, it is the responsibility of young people to take the reins of the country in their hands as it is their turn to lead.”

Dr. Shahid Siddiqui in his comments underlined the need to identify different types of extremism and strategies to deal with each type separately. “The global experience shows that if rightly guided the youth can play a critical role in the making of societies and polities,” he said adding that given the overarching role of social media Pakistan needs to come up with extended pedagogies to attract the youth.

The second session focused on ‘Campuses: catalyst for change’ in which the speakers tried to find out ways and means to make youth a catalyst for change to nurture pluralism and promote peace in Pakistan.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Poem by Ayesha Mushtaq

Ayesha Mushtaq is currently living in Canada where she teaches in a university.  She is an enthusiastic teacher and a creative artist.  Her poetry demonstrates modern sensibility. Here is a poem by Ayesha with symbolic literary references and some powerful sonorous and pictorial images.  The poem focuses on the inner conflict and reminds us of Prufrock of TS Eliot. To fully appreciate this poem one needs to have a basic awareness of some major literary works in English as the poem makes use of literary allusions.

Hebe… and qualms—a goodbye for good!

Qualms of conscience! Halt! Rest awhile!
And let me drench in thoughts-anagrammed evil! vile ! whatever.
I am not a sinner, And I have not sinned
So stop pinching me tonight and rest awhile!
Oh Conscience!
You hiss like a snake,
And pinch like a thorn
By you I am falsely accused!!
You sentence Tess to be evil
And Iago saintly born!!
You anger me my anima
SO GO!!!
Take a walk out tonight!
And next time round,
You’d better have your homework done right.

Vole,Olve,Veol or Leov
It stinks no matter what you call it,
A cabbage skunk stays a cabbage skunk
Huh? You dare smirk conscience?
Ah! Don’t be absurd! I am not punch drunk.
Tonight I am saner than I ever was,
Sobriety embraces me like a fraternity
And I find joy in my weakest fragility
Love is insane indeed,
Expectations are illusive
But my life is mine tonight
And I’m divinely ecstatic!!
Let me go and meet him tonight
He is coming to make his visit,
He has braved the passage of
Those rich and beautiful women,
Who come and go,
Talking of Micheal Angelou

So qualms!
Go out tonight,
And let him come and make his visit
Go tame Minerva instead!
She needs a firmer hand!!
And let my Prufrock be daunting and upright tonight.
Oh! A minute conscience before you go,
I have a confession to make
You have been my dearest friend
And for leaving me tonight
I promise I will make amends!
His feelings are a seasonal affair , you know,
Of love and illusions filled,
He has incapacitated himself,I know,
But damnit
He has ruined me too, you know?
Poor chap!look here he comes
So mundane and simple like
Hush now qualms! Go and leave us alone.
I have prepared my little speech
To feed to his little mind.

You hug me conscience?
When I abhor you so?
Go conscience and here catch morality too,
Take my politeness and good nature too
 Here, broken promises and truth denied
Take them away from me tonight.
Go! Leave! I beseech you
Take your ethics and Sunday prayers too
And goodwill and humanity?
Throw those in the bin as you go!!

I have business here tonight,
In the chambers of my mind
Yes bookish and arrogant mind,
No, he won’t want coffee spoons tonight, no worry
I have enough hemlock,
For us both
To laugh, drink and be merry.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Equal opportunities to girl students stressed

“Empowerment through girls' education in contemporary Muslim societies” 
Conference organized by the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE), in collaboration with Dubai Cares and Oxfam GB,  12 mARCH, 2011.
The educational facilities provided to girls should be equal in all respects to those provided to boys with the objective to steer social and economic development and freedom of thought and expression รข€“ than mere transmission of knowledge.
For this purpose, curricula needed to be redesigned in a way that students begin to demand their basic right of freedom of expression and thought.  Lahore School of Economics` centre for humanities and social sciences director Dr Shahid Siddiqui said this while speaking at a conference on “Empowerment through girls` education in contemporary Muslim societies” organised by the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE), in collaboration with Dubai Cares and Oxfam GB, at a local hotel on Saturday.

He stressed that the medium of exchange of ideas should not be limited to a formal classroom alone. He said non-formal education had already been introduced in Pakistan but the country was not harvesting the indigenous knowledge or informal knowledge. The challenge of limited literacy is so vast, that it could not be resolved by a school alone.

Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) executive director Dr Baela Raza Jamil said the public sector performance was continuing to falter, while the private sector was rapidly expanding to provide respite to households often at affordable cost, offering them education opportunities at all levels with assured teachers` presence and relatively better students` learning outcomes.
Stating that the costs per student in the private sector are often much lower than that of the public sector, she said, Pakistan illustrated a powerful case study of a paradigm shift in education from state-owned and managed schooling system that reached at a high point in 1972 with nation-wide nationalisation of education, to one which was increasingly becoming `blended` across government and non-state partners. “The paradigm shift is not just about who owns, who finances and who manages but, about expanding partnerships,” she said.
Dr Jamil said the National Education Census 2005 (2006) commissioned by the ministry of education was the first comprehensive data exercise that revealed powerful shifts in education as the basis for re-examining education provision and delivery. Out of 227,791 institutions, almost 33 per cent were attributed to the private sector, managed and run by a kaleidoscope of non-state providers both secular and faith based. An Oxfam Education Report had also identified that the notion that private schools were servicing the needs of a small minority of wealthy parents was misplaced.
Explaining statistics, she said the non-state partners were active at all levels of education barring mosque schools, especially at post primary levels. Most schools operated by the private partners comprised Kindergarten to Class-X. She said the private sector expansion was mainly a response to the continuing problems of public sector service delivery.
Dr Jamil said a common thread running across public and private initiated education enterprise in Pakistan was that of `incremental` acknowledgement of multiple needs addressing, not merely access, but also quality and equity.
Now, she said, more and more households tend to withdraw their children from the perceived unaccountable government systems to the more accountable private schooling options. She said the public sector in Pakistan was definitely seeking a rethink on service delivery options through: public sector financed partnerships, affordable private schools as social enterprise, organised philanthropy and sensible contemporary regulatory regimes that do not injure enterprise and detract from the EFA and MDGs gains made in rugged territories where no government had dared to venture!
Punjab Education Foundation managing-director Ambreen Raza gave a presentation on foundation`s initiatives; Salaeya Butt from SAHE talked on the importance of governance reforms for achieving the desired results in educational initiatives; Pakistan Education Watch`s Abida Mahmood spoke on the challenged women`s face in the attainment of education.
Oxfam GB`s girls education programme coordinator Saeed-ul-Hasan and PCE national coordinator Zahra Arshad also spoke.