We can ******* our education system ourselves, thank you

Published: May 25, 2012
Email

The same foreign embassy asked the rector not to invite the Iranian ambassador and his wife to the event, but the rector refused to comply. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVED/EXPRESS

Universities are supposed to help open a young person’s mind to the world, exposing them to new ideas and concepts. Historian Richard Hofstadter felt that “a university’s essential character is that of being a centre of free inquiry and criticism — a thing not to be sacrificed for anything else”. Unsurprisingly, this concept is foreign to at least one of the country’s leading universities.

Recently, Islamic International University Islamabad (IIUI) Rector Fateh Muhammad Malik took indefinite ex-Pakistan leave, allegedly after pressure was applied on the government by the ambassador of a ‘friendly nation’ for his removal.

Now, IIUI is hardly a bastion of modernity, having come up as part of General Zia’s foreign-funded radicalisation of Pakistani society, but the university was on the right track. Malik had been moving it in a different direction from his predecessors, hoping to modernise the curricula with special focus on the Islamic school of thought to be adhered to. Unfortunately, the bigotry ingrained in other faculty members proved to be an obstacle too great to overcome.

Tribune reporter Peer Muhammad managed to dig up an interesting factoid. During a recent cultural week held at the university, the same foreign embassy asked the rector not to invite the Iranian ambassador and his wife to the event, but the rector refused to comply. It didn’t help that the rector also criticised the absolute monarchy that governs the friendly nation. Apparently, an educator is not allowed to criticise what is arguably the most corrupt and authoritarian form of governance known to man, one that was rejected by every country in the world that has produced a notable political leader in the last 200 years. The handful that remain have many commonalities — they sit on top of much of the world’s oil, suppress media freedom, especially criticism of the infallible monarchs, and regularly interfere in the affairs of their so-called allies for proxy war purposes.

Whatever the western world’s reasons though, Pakistan should not be anyone’s proxy battleground. Beyond the bloodshed, we have more than enough incompetent leaders to implode without interference from Riyadh or Tehran.

Their effort to kill the Higher Education Commission for the ‘crime’ of proving a large number of elected parliamentarians to be illiterate liars was only the first step. Then they decided to put the investigators on the hot seat instead of the criminals. After re-electing some of these frauds, despite the fact that they had lied on government documents, leading parties unanimously agreed to slash the higher education budget and hold back funding for as long as possible. Apparently, they were being nice when they tried to kill the HEC, because now they’re torturing it and the hundreds of students dependent on HEC scholarships. Not that these illiterate fatcats in Parliament care. They made their millions without an education. Lie, cheat and steal seems easier to do than studying hard, working hard and earning money.

Just look at the Federal Directorate of Education, where a guy with a third-class BA degree has been given the charge of running the city’s education system. Unsurprisingly, the only place it is running is into the ground.

Still, at least tomorrow if not today, the Pakistanis ruining the system can be taken to trial. Foreign leaders and diplomats cant. IIUI needs to be modernised if the students there stand a chance of being functional in the 21st century. Having students take gender-segregated classes is not going to help achieve that. Having religious studies classes that preach an extreme form of Islam is not going to help that. And having teachers who have more loyalty to a foreign ambassador than to their own students, faculty, and country, is not going to change that. We have enough madrassas working as psudo-universities and churning out functional-illiterates, whose limited worldview and lack of practical skills leads them into the hands of explosive extremists. We don’t need a recognised university doing the same thing. At least not again.

Read more by Vaqas here, or follow him on Twitter @vasghar

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.