K-12 education and translated work of Pakistani female fiction writers

ISLAMABAD: Agents of Change is an in-depth exploration of ‘the problematic landscape of Pakistan’s K-12 education and the people leading it’ by its co-authors Amjad Noorani and Nadeem Hussain.

It has been described as ‘an informed commentary on education policies and practice in
Pakistan’. Feminine Foot Print on Pakistani Literature comprises a translated version of nineteen Urdu short stories by a mix of old and young female fiction writers from Pakistan, selected and rendered by Amir Rizvi, a seasoned translator and bilingual litterateur. This review is intended to deal with the two publications separately.

The book is an incredible story of commitment and resolve placed within the larger historic
and material context. It is an important compendium of informed and reflective commentary on education policies and practice in Pakistan. The authors have successfully initiated a deeply political conversation. However, to borrow from Antonio Gramsci, they promote a ‘politics of consent’ in the realm of education. (Harris Khalique)

Renowned fiction writer Muhammad Hanif regards the book as a ‘must read for educators
and policy makers’. Physicist/educator Pervez Hoodbhoy opines that it (the book) ‘lays out
the enormity of the problem that Pakistan faces in educating its youth’. The book is dedicated to late Abdul Sattar Edhi, the iconic humanist who inter alia introduced the first nation-wide non-profit ambulance service in the country.

Apart from the opening prologues, appendices, postscripts, and the index, the book is split
into seven chapters, viz. ‘Fixing the problematic education system’, ‘The incredible story of
TCF (The Citizens Foundation)’, ‘The Saleem family of Ibrahim Goth’, ‘Agents of change’, ‘The right to education’, ‘The madrasa as an institution of education’, and ‘Education reform: The essentials’. The concept and methodology of TCF (The Citizens Foundation) forms the core theme of this book. Dr. Shashi Buluswar, from the University of California views it (TCF) as ‘the world’s single most effective NGO in Education.’ It operates a vast network of schools, teachers and students of which a vivid detail is charted in the second chapter of the book.

The authors ‘cohesively bring forward the scale of TCF’s 25 years of intervention, that
provides both qualitative and quantitative basis to decisively shape the direction of primary
and secondary education in Pakistan, laying the foundation for development of individuals
with civic responsibility and consciousness to address challenges humanity is globally facing’.

Thus to quote Salman Humayun of the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences, Islamabad,
‘This book holds great value for policy research organizations, think-tanks, and development practitioners globally. It roots the debate on delivering quality education to all children in Pakistan in the context of elite capture, institutional challenges, inequity, and
marginalization. It argues that the education challenge is not only technical in nature but also deeply political; and reforms that fail to establish a vibrant interface between the technical and the political are likely to be short-lived. Political yet non-partisan advocacy embedded in robust data and evidence is the key.’

Feminine Foot Print on Pakistani Literature

Amir Rizvi has discreetly selected nineteen female fiction writers of Urdu, both past and
present, for inclusion of their short stories rendered by him into English, in this book. It is a
Pakistan Academy of Letters sponsored publication with an apt preface by its Chairman Dr.
Yousuf Khushk, an erudite foreword by the eminent Pakistani poet of English Ejaz Rahim, and a discursive ‘translator’s note’ by Amir Rizvi himself.

‘The array of writers presented here’, as Dr. Yousuf Khushk views it, ‘represent women
specific Pakistani literary scenario’. Ejaz Rahim is of the opinion that ‘Mr. Rizvi happens to be a passionate translator. He is able to convey not only the physical aspects of a creative story but also the spirit of the work he takes up for translation. I believe that a translator worth his salt has to acquit himself honorably in facing a double challenge. He must not deviate from the original in terms of substance but he must not be a slavish follower of the text as well.

Translations require to transport a whole ethos, culture and spirit of the original. I think the
term ‘co-creator’ makes eminent sense for a good translator.’
According to the translator, ‘These stories not only illustrate the diversified cultural and social issues of Pakistani women, but also tell how they perceive the world around them.’ The feministic tone and tenor of the stories tend to enhance their contemporaneous value in the backdrop of the acute socio-moral concern that modern literature in all its forms and
formulations evinces for the distaff sensitivities. The purpose underlying the present
selection is ‘to convey their (women’s) voice to the foreign world in addition to English
speaking segment of our society’. The original writers and their works are listed below:
Mumtaz Sheerin (What an Ignobility, What a Nobility) Bano Qudsia (Impure Hearts); Khadija Mastoor (Bhorey); Hajra Masroor (Oh, Love); Hijab Imtiaz Ali (Late Wife); Zatoon Bano (The Madwoman); Bushra Rehman (Womanliness); Azra Asghar (The Eighteenth Girl); Firdous Haider (How Mona Died); Parveen Malik (Who I Am?); Noor Ul Hoda Shah (The Venom of Life); Massarat Kalanchvi (Sleep); Neelam Bashir (Another River); Farhat Parveen (Sensitive Human Beings); Tahira Iqbal (His Strange Move); Zahid Raees Raji (Dog); Saba Javed (The Farness); Humaira Sadaf Hassani (Jinx); and Musarrat Laghari (Trifles).

According to Ejaz Rahim, ‘The translator has an amazing vocabulary and a zestful style of
expression. All in all, Mr. Rizvi has made a sterling contribution in translating these stories
which so aptly sum up the feminine side of human experience in this land, which is equally
the human side of feminine experience. One can be proud of the depth and range of the
human aspect covered by these contemporary short stories. They have projected life-like
situations with great integrity and courage. These constitute Art’s illustrious homage at the temple of human dignity.

By Syed Afsar Sajid
Title: ‘Agents of Change’
Author: Amjad Noorani – Nadeem Hussain
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Karachi
Page: 477 – Price: Rs.895

Title: ‘Feminine Foot Print on Pakistani Literature’
Translated by: Amir Rizvi
Published by: Pakistan Academy of Letters, Islamabad
Pages: 140 – Price: Rs.180

Syed Afsar Sajid
Syed Afsar Sajid
The writer is a Faisalabad based former bureaucrat, poet, literary and cultural analyst, and an academic. He can be reached at: [email protected].
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