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Battles outside the classroom

Published Mar 19, 2012 04:16pm

“I want to become a teacher when I grow up,” was a phrase that dominated a major part of my childhood. My mother still reminds me of the dust of white writing chalk that ruined her draperies and the havoc I created whilst teaching hypothetical students.

In retrospect, had I known the ‘repercussions’ of becoming an educationist in Pakistan, I probably would have silenced my aspirations to spread knowledge.

Universities and colleges in Pakistan have literally transformed into battlegrounds where metal rods, stray bullets and batons rule. Hence, it will not be inappropriate to state that political allegiances triumph over the will to seek true wisdom.

In a country where all the major socio-economic and cultural issues are blamed on a lack of awareness and education, concrete measures to curb the violence, predominantly prevalent in the state-owned universities, are yet to be seen. Education, which can perhaps serve as one of the most vital tools to bring about an end to various dilemmas sabotaging Pakistan, is constantly being disrupted in universities due to the nonsensical and behaviour of a selected few.

Reports of clashes amongst students who represent different political parties make for regular highlights in the news these days. I tend to believe that one day these issues will fizzle out on their own because the administrations governing the universities show no resilience to address the issue.

“Teachers and administrations are more to be blamed than the students who carry out the violence but are not actually the main culprits behind them,” said Dr Mazhar Saaed Akhtar, Institute of Education and Research (IER), Punjab University.

According to Dr Akhtar political parties have much more to gain from the varsity clashes than is portrayed by reports. Stories are generally presented in a manner that is either favourable for the ruling political party or increases it’s prospective fan-following and vote banks. Teachers and university administration have their own political affiliations which is why their role in the engineered riots is formidable.

In my opinion mixing education with politics can have disastrous effects on young, impressionable minds. Intolerance and the ethnic drift, that remain the crux of major problems that continue to terrorise Pakistan, stem from playgrounds and universities. Student organisations, which are either bifurcated on the basis of their respective ethnicities or religious orientations, are more often than not involved in public brawls on the pettiest of issues.

This perpetual hatred towards each other inflicts physical harm no doubt, however, it is the ‘invisible wounds’ that engrave the psychological growth of involved youths, that are perhaps more worrisome primarily because they are more difficult to heal.

Perhaps the violence we experience everyday, which involves brutal ethnic, religious and other atrocious killings, is an off-shoot of the same parasitic plant which thrives on young minds and motivates them to act and think irrationally.

Being an optimist, I am subjected to believe that inherently all human beings are harmonious and congenial. So, I went looking for someone, who could perhaps authenticate my trust in humanity, to the place which witnessed an altercation of a massive magnitude recently.

Basit*, a student of Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST), Karachi, on condition of anonymity said, “when the riots broke out last Tuesday, we were in the middle of a lecture. A couple of people came rushing to the class and asked us to leave immediately. We dodged the metal rods and other weapons by ducking our way through to the safety exit.

“The violence never ceases. It dies down but resurfaces after a month or two. Last year the university was shut down for a month because the administration did not want us dodging ‘stray bullets’ fired from guns that students freely carry around at the campus,” added Basit.

The fact that such vehement activities can defer academic sessions to over a month infuriates me to the core. This unwelcome intrusion in the curriculum is not only a loss to the overall educational system but in fact is a major loss to students who cannot afford individual tuition and solely rely on their college professors for assistance.

The state of affairs is indeed reprehensible and is growing bleaker by the day; however, the only viable solution to end this idiocy is to ban political activities in universities. Stringent rules and regulations for governance can perhaps curb, if not exterminate, the aggression and intolerance which is manifested through arms and ammunition.

Private universities govern on the same mandate and the ratio of violence in such universities is negligible. Disciplinary committees and administration should work together in establishing policies that are beneficial for education and students — beginning with banning political groups.

It is time to work collectively towards an educated tomorrow, one which can only be achieved by putting a stop to these puppeteers. To restore freedom we must start by taking our future back into our hands.

*Identity concealed due to security reasons.

 

The writer is a Reporter at Dawn.com