A tale of two extremes - Pakistan Today

A tale of two extremes

Who would want to point out gaps in an event that was attended by over 75,000 sportsmen and women, 35,000 spectators and was worth over Rs 2 billion of the tax-payers’ money?
Not unless the problem was as glaringly obvious and a constant reminder of our failure as a nation as this. The event in question is the opening ceremony of the Punjab Sports Festival 2012. “We came here after our school ended at 1pm. All the lunch we had brought with us is finished,” said Ali Jafri, just before he and his friend threw a bottle at a police officer.
Ali is a matriculation student at a government school and his father, a clerk, makes Rs 18,000 per month.
Sitting a few seats away from him, Asad Mir, an O Levels student at a private school, looks at Ali in disgust. “Mismanagement is hardly a word that could describe what is happening here. There are no volunteers, only policemen, who are slapping people randomly to discipline them,” says Asad. He draws parallels with the annual Sports Fest that is organised by the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and at his own school, which charges Rs 15,000 in fee every month. “The people coming to these events are more disciplined, they follow the rules that are set by the organisers. Look at these rowdy government schools students (pointing to the place where government schoolchildren were beating each other up),” he said, adding “the events are better organised too. Everyone has a good time. Over here, it’s been a headache because of them.”
A group of MAO College students, who too were forced to participate in the event by their teachers, were cracking lewd jokes about the girls who had taken part in the welcome performance.
“Why have they put themselves on display if they don’t want to be mocked?” says Jalal Khan. “Look at those snobs sitting in the VIP box, we can neither hear nor see anything. Making fun of these girls is all we have left to do,” he said. Another group of students from a public college snatched packets of biscuits from a seller and push him off the steps. “It’s the government’s duty to feed us. We are hungry,” they smirk, when Pakistan Today asked them why they had done so.
“Thank God my father got us these VIP tickets. Imagine sitting with those cheapsters,” Anaya Rehman tells Pakistan Today. “They actually deserve that,” she points to a policeman slapping a boy for throwing bottles at him. She opens her Pringles and offers it.
According to a study conducted by Gallup, over 56 percent Pakistanis want to send their children to private schools. However, only 30 percent are able to do so. Exorbitant fee has often been cited as the main reason why the lower middle and lower class has to resort to sending their children to public schools, which are free. A research conducted by the World Bank reveals that even though public school teachers in Pakistan are better in terms of experience and education, the private schools with their less educated teachers and lower teacher to student ratio have been able to groom their students better. “With the kind of pays we get, we cannot groom and educate the 60 children that are put under our care,” said Shahbana, a government school teacher. Her students were fighting another group of students from another school while she looked on. “I am tired, I brought them here at 1pm and its 8pm now,” she says.
“What we see here are two different and irreconcilable extremes. The reason why China has been able to become a superpower even though it came into existence after us is their standardisation of one syllabus. With multiple syllabi and social class-wise institutions, we are necessarily creating one disaster of a social system which even we won’t understand one day,” says Anum Afzal, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in education an Ivy League college.
Soon, the seating area becomes a war zone. The boys start shouting obscenities at the girls sitting in a separate section. Some even climb the barrier that separates the two and are beaten up by the girls. They throw water bottles at each other and make obscene signs with their hands. A police officer scratches his stomach. “When we came in the morning, they sent us to gate 10, and then to gate 14 and then to gate 7,” says Irum Raheem, “I wish I could come in from the VIP gate also.”
The VIP section is an enclosure where the seats are more comfortable and which is guarded by the police. “Nobody threw any bottles and everyone enjoyed the event. We got a great response from the public. There was a little problem of discipline and we called in the Rangers,” a Sports Board officer asking not to be named told Pakistan Today. The director and the spokesperson could not be contacted despite repeated attempt.
Soon, the function comes to an end. As Anaya rushes to get her shirt signed from EP’s Fawad Khan, Ali breaks the barrier and tries to snatch a lunchbox from a participant. Shahbaz Sharif waves on.

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  1. @affanjaved said:

    I think the writer has done a good job highlighting the disparity as the result of prevalent class divide in Pakistan – which is conveniently ignored on a every day basis as this is not something we like to acknowledge or discuss.

  2. Maria said:

    that's the bottom line and everything else revolves around this notion which no one seems to address … thank you for putting thoughts to words …

  3. aqil said:

    This is a job well done! great going Pakistan Today!

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