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Curricula to be cleansed of hatred

July 27, 2010


PESHAWAR, July 26 Textbooks taught in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are to be rewritten after taking out hate material from them and introducing texts in its place that purport to promote love, peace and brotherhood.

“We are in the process of replacing hate material with peace material,” Prof Fazal Rahim Marwat, chairman, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board told Dawn in an interview.

“It is a slow process but will be taken to the logical conclusion,” he said, blaming the spread of fundamentalism in the province to the current school curricula, sectarian speeches and easy access to jihadi literature and websites.

Prof Marwat, a teacher at the Peshawar University, who was appointed chairman of the textbook board two years ago on deputation, said the new curriculum would be in place by next month.

“We are going to make changes to the curriculum from grade one to twelve to produce good human beings who not only play their role in the country's development but also contribute towards regional and global development,” Prof Marwat said.

The professor held military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq responsible for “sowing seeds of discord in society on religious and ethnic lines by stuffing school curricula with material that promoted hatred now manifested in the shape of extremism, intolerance, militancy, sectarianism, dogmatism and fanaticism.”

During Zia's regime hate material was incorporated into curriculum to inculcate the spirit of Jihad among the Pakistani as well as Afghan students to prepare them for Jihad against the Russian forces, he elaborated.

The same year, Iran Revolution also resulted in radicalization of the curriculum, he added. Prof Marwat, who has authored a book From Muhajir to Mujahid (from refugees to Jihadist), said it was in the wake of Afghan war against Russians that religious schools increased by leaps and bounds with American money to raise a force of Jihadists to win the war against the Soviets.

The federal government which earlier approved the curriculum for schools and colleges had delegated this power to the provinces in the wake of the 18th Constitution Amendment to prepare their own curricula.

“After the 1965 Pakistan-India war countless lessons and chapters were introduced that spread hatred among the students and portrayed India as the biggest enemy of the Muslims. That stuff should be done away with,” he said.

“We know about the international history but what about our own heroes, who struggled for safeguarding human rights, democracy and promotion of education,” he added.

Prof Marwat has worked hard to incorporate chapters in the syllabi about the lives and struggle of the local heroes for democracy, peace and harmony, “We are in the process of printing books with graphics and cartoons to lure the students to read them with interest and devotion. The new curriculum is a good weapon to put the students on the right path”, he said.

The school and college books have been molded to match local environment and are easily understandable as well as beneficial for future.

“We will introduce Quranic verses in the curriculum with call for peace, love and brotherhood of all humankind”, he said. Apart from it, our efforts are to tell the students that “knowledge is more powerful than the sword”, “knowledge is light”, and the ideologies of local leaders, such as Bacha Khan, who preached the philosophy of non-violence that had gained currency globally.

“Besides, we are also focused on including lessons on how to keep the environment clean, conserve water and cope with natural calamities, such as flash floods, earthquakes and bomb blasts”, the professor said. Instead of international war, we want to inform the students about the heroics of our elders so they could be taken as role models, he said.

“We want curriculum that speaks about love and peace with all countries. For this purpose, we are trying to remove the gun culture with pen and books”, Prof Marwat said. “Awareness about traffic laws, demining and crisis management are other areas where we are concentrating”, he said.

Additionally, love towards animals and birds and the message against deforestation are also the hallmark of the new syllabus because the country is facing huge problems when it comes to preservation of nature. “More attention is laid on primary schools because the students can pick things more naturally at their tender age”, he explained.

We want to win the war against terrorism through ideology, Prof Marwat said. Our ideology is peace and not war.

“Every book will have a message of peace on the very second page after the title page. In the new courses, students would know much about the lives and struggle of Rehman Baba, Khushal Khan Khattak, Ahmed Fraz, Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, Ghani Khan and other literary persons of the country”, he said.