Gloom hangs heavy in the air as Pakistan is going through one of the worst phases of her short history! The most common emotions we are experiencing these days are of insecurity, anxiety, fear, frustration, disappointment and all other such negative feelings! Although elections are just round the corner but the common citizen does not seem to be interested in casting his vote! We have been hoodwinked so many times by the clever and greedy politicians that we have lost all hope that things will or can improve for the better! Tall promises made in the past (and which were never fulfilled) have made us doubt any new claims made by these same faces!
The media is crying its throat hoarse on the intensity (read hopelessness) of the situation. Day in and day out, we witness participants of TV talk shows spell doom. The hosts of these shows invite people at the helm of affairs, people who have influence as well as authority, to discuss on the various issues troubling our country. But these people do nothing except fighting like wild cats, slinging allegations at each other and behaving like a bunch of spoilt brats! No one is ready to come forward and take responsibility, the best that they do is comfortably placing their opponent responsible for the quagmire we are stuck in. Problems are discussed and defined, but no solutions are offered.
I am just a face in the crowd, an ordinary woman in a country of millions. But like every educated and dedicated Pakistani, I feel depressed by the state of affairs and often ponder on means and ways to come out of this situation. I strongly feel that every one with an iota of patriotism should do his/ her share. It may be a drop in the ocean, but with time, effort and dedication, eventually every drop will count! Because every contribution (however small it may seem at the moment), towards a better society, may make some difference tomorrow! According to Shahzad Roy, founder of the Zindagi Trust, “To go big, we must first start small. Alas there are no shortcuts!”
I and my readers are lucky, in the sense that we had access to quality education. We went to good institutions and had sincere teachers who brought out our abilities as best as they could. We know what our rights as citizens of a state are, and what duties we hold in return. We are leading a relatively comfortable and respectable life and can only imagine the sufferings of the down trodden masses. The current state of affairs strongly demands that it is our turn to pay back to our Homeland and not take our good luck for granted. We must understand that holding discussions over a cup of coffee, comfortably seated in our drawing rooms will not change our lot. We have to do something urgently, nay, on a war footing, to save our country from total turmoil.
The crying need of the hour is to create awareness among the masses. People must learn to identify their rights as well as be aware of their duties! And this mind-set comes only with education. We in Pakistan have a very low literacy rate, although official figures paint a brighter picture of the situation, as they declare near half the population literate. But their criterion is indeed pathetic; as a person who can read and write his/ her name is called literate in Pakistan. We have a dismal education system, teaching a listless curriculum by teachers, majority of who lack any sense of dedication to the cause of “Education for All”. Some of Pakistan’s problems like the rise of the crime graph, unemployment, hatred, intolerance and poor health conditions due to poor hygiene, are created by the lack of education.
Successive governments have failed to work for raising literacy levels in Pakistan (134th position in the 180 countries of the world and 31st out of 35 Islamic countries). Our selfish and greedy politicians realize that mass literacy will give people dignity, self respect and the courage to fight against their oppressive policies. Because with education comes enlightenment and the will to fight tyranny!
In the past Punjab government did come up once with the slogan Parha Likha Punjab. (I beg to state that the name is suggestive in itself of the political motives behind it as Parha Likha Pakistan would have been a more patriotic slogan). But it was rolled back after millions of rupees were misspent. So whatever tall claims they may make, education has never been on the top in the priority lists of our governments.
Whoever is in power, in every budget only meager funds are allotted for education, while much bigger chunks are spent on the luxurious spending of the government high-ups. Although the outgoing government had announced that over 80% literacy would be reached by the year 2015, but with no note worthy efforts in this direction, this proved to be only a verbal claim. We can easily understand how sincere their claims were by the fact that approximately a paltry 2% of the budget was been allocated for the educational sector. (UNESCO has recommended increasing this to at least 4%). In which I call only a vote gaining tactic, a resolution to implement free secondary education was passed in the National Assembly a few months back, but every educated Pakistani felt that this was “Too little, Too late!
In the rural areas, the situation is worse. The influential landlords consider it against their interests that their Haris or their children get educated. They know that their uncrowned kingdoms will have to face a down fall once awareness is created amongst their domains. To keep their powerful tentacles firmly rooted, they discourage their Haris and threaten them with dire consequences if their children are sent to school. They forcefully have schools shut down, using them as their Autaqs, or worst still as their cattle pens. As most of our feudal landlords have a strong hold on the country’s political power, they can easily have their way. So majority of the population continue to live on as illiterates, in abject poverty and unaware of their basic rights to a minimal quality life.
NGOs, philantropists and private trusts are working in the education sector and doing a lot to provide free or affordable education to the poor children. The parents are urged to pull their children out of child labor and sent to schools; something they are often reluctant to do, as the children help out their parents by bringing in additional income. But the problem is so enormous that these efforts can not be enough to tackle the situation and bring our country out of this culture of chaos, corruption and confusion. Each and every educated person in Pakistan should come forward to do his/ her share.
My slogan is “Each One, Teach One”. If each educated Pakistani vows to impart education to only one illiterate person, young or old, soon we will see winds of change blowing. By adopting just one person as our student, be it our maid, chowkidar or their child, the boy selling tidbits at traffic signals or the Chota at the motor mechanics or Pan shop, we have to coax and urge these people and take them under our folds. By sparing a couple of hours of our free time and making all out efforts to impart education from the basic level, we can change the destiny of at least one person, as our student will not just learn to read and write his/her name to be called a literate, rather would have the awareness and vision only education can create. Making only one person literate by the educated ones, will double the literacy rate of Pakistan in no time. And the only repayment we may ask from our student is to ask him to pass on his knowledge to someone else in his circle.
Being a firm optimist, I believe that there is light at the end of the darkest tunnel. Every educated Pakistani must come forward to light the torch of literacy and to make sure that this torch keeps on burning. It may take time, patience and endurance but in not- too- far- off days we shall see hands coming out of the darkness; hands which shall pick up this lightened torch of education and awareness and march ahead, spreading the light of literacy to each and every part of our country! In Sha Allah!