Education – of the ‘azaan baj raha hai’ variety | Pakistan Today

Education – of the ‘azaan baj raha hai’ variety

  • U-turns all around?

The various convent schools dotted across the country used to produce what we were pleased to consider an elite; in the case of female students that meant women known for deportment and cheesecake, best described as ladies of the ‘azaan baj raha hai’ variety able to speak English better than their mother tongue.

Aitchison was even then in a class of its own, producing young men who looked impressive on horses; able to mount a horse on one side without falling off the other. They were also skilled with a polo stick.

Someone probably realised that the fledgling nation was hardly in crying need of such skills. A different set of skills were needed. So, a new batch of schools appeared and proliferated, the Beaconhouses, City Schools, LGS etal.

Like the schools mentioned above the education these newer schools provide is of an international standard. Most students enrolled here get through O and A levels and continue to higher studies at home or abroad.

All these schools however address the needs of just the few. The majority, as always, is ignored.

And still, those different set of skills needed by the fledgling nation are not to be seen.

The convents were not expensive, but it was hard to get admission in one unless you were related to someone who was someone. Aitchison was never affordable, and the newer schools are not affordable at all. None of these institutions provide what this country needs most: an equal opportunity for all its students. The deep, very deep chasm that runs through this society and pulls it apart remains, only now it is deeper than before.

Just as it is wrong to foster a minority that has very little in common with the majority, it is not the best idea to produce a set of young people with a great deal of academic but no life skills. In this country, members of the elite would generally not know what to do if a set of plyers were to fall into their hands. Not that a set of plyers would forget itself so far as to do that. And, of course, there’s always the lucky matter of mummy knowing of a very good plumber…

They do nothing around the house, and summer jobs are almost unheard of. Life starts at two in the afternoon and ends at four in the morning. Rather a waste of an education? That fact that Pakistan is a poor country, now also a malnourished one, skittered across their horizon at some stage, but then it disappeared because there are few reminders in such a pampered life. Even the beggars that come knocking at car doors are invisible because these children have phones in their hands. All things practical are learnt during higher studies overseas where this chasm does not exist, or at least not to such an extent. Because yes, that is the sad thing, that these children, educated lopsidedly as they may be, are, after all’s said and done, educated. And they leave the country taking that education with them.

The Supreme Court and the High Court of Sindh in their combined wisdom have suspended the registration of some schools because of their high fees which – annually – rises more than it is allowed to rise

But who, given a choice, would live in the same country as Khadim Hussain Rizvi, one of the many markers at which the government made a U-turn, today a move much touted by our PM, but more of that anon.

The government run schools in Pakistan are most of them abysmal. Graduates come away with no language skills – either mother tongue or that of strangers, and next to no understanding of geography, science, or much of anything else. Practical skills are learnt on the job.

The country needs more schools where students are taught life skills in addition to academics. One such school – there may be others – is the Chand Bagh School, in Muridke, about 40 km from Lahore. It is a residential school with a reasonable fee — which would still be out of reach of the common man, but the school itself provides some two hundred scholarships to address that problem. In addition to academics, students are taught plumbing, electrical skills, gardening, and even though they are boys… cooking. It is a laudable effort, and that is what we need.

The Supreme Court and the High Court of Sindh in their combined wisdom have suspended the registration of some schools because of their high fees which – annually – rises more than it is allowed to rise. Thousands of students across the country have been cast into a dilemma regarding their education. Clearly, official understanding of this issue is that one must shut down what is available instead of providing alternatives.

Of course, the suspension of registration will not last long because students belonging to these schools belong to rich families, the only currency that never dips in Pakistan – and someone or the other will use their clout to put things back on course. The courts will, in short, do a U-turn then, which according to our PM is the best example of leadership, or else we all stand in danger of being defeated, like Hitler or Napoleon.

Well, Hitler is beyond the pale, but Napoleon, despite his lack of U-turns, had several achievements which are best described in this passage by Wiki:

‘Napoleon’s influence on the modern world brought liberal reforms to the numerous territories that he conquered and controlled. He implemented fundamental liberal policies in France and throughout Western Europe. His Napoleonic Code has influenced the legal systems of more than 70 nations around the world. British historian Andrew Roberts states: “The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire”.’

All this without a single U-turn. Tut. If the Supreme Court of Pakistan or the current government can achieve one tenth of this, particularly in the field of education, or any field really, I’ll eat my hat. I may not wear it, but I do possess one. I was after all once at CJM.

Rabia Ahmed

The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at