Stories about university

Our universities are exploiting us

Before enrolling into my university, I was required to sign the usual hosh posh of documents that institutes require to ensure that they’re protected if the students ever decide to ‘act out’. This also included a written oath which demanded that I would abide by the rules and regulations of the institute regardless of what they were and failure to do so would lead to my expulsion from it. The complete sets of rules were compiled in a book and every student was required to go through them before being admitted. The book itself comprised of the usual assortment of ...

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The cost of grades

By the end of my first semester in university, I became aware that my approach towards education is becoming what the university wants it to be – grades oriented and competitive, wanting to be better than the others, but not because learning is the aim. Without my realising it, the concept of education had changed in my mind. Now it was just a matter of mere numbers (marks) and letters (grades). Relative grading in educational institutions teaches students one simple rule: your grade depends on how others have done in your class. So if the rest of the class has done average, and you are a just a little above ...

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What 32 dead school children are saying

This is a story of a cruel, ruthless and heartless Pakistani system that has failed. And no elections can save it, without a major change. A mother in northern Pakistan jumped into a river where five of her children drowned after the management of a privately-run school sent them off in a crammed bus driven by the school’s gatekeeper, or chowkidar, who then drove it off a cliff. Every once in a while comes a news story that makes your heart stop. And this is one of them. Pakistan’s politicians can spend $11 million on a statue for a dead politician ...

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The PhD ‘business’

Anyone even remotely related to the field will confess to the silent revolution in the landscape of higher education in the country since the establishment of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Pakistan has a high number of scholarships for M.S and PhD candidates, much higher than countries like India, Iran, Australia or New Zealand. Unfortunately, there are loopholes. Even a cursory look at the Fellowship program will reveal the benefits the project awards to PhD advisors. These include a monthly honorarium and bonuses for synopsis, publications, thesis defense etc. This has resulted in many advisors becoming greedy enough to enroll every Tom, Dick and Harry with them for the ...

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Life in a hostel: The hate list

The Warden: I wonder if while hiring hostel wardens, the administration specifically looks for bitter, old, and mostly unmarried ladies who will make sure that life is unbearably hard for students at the dreaded boarding school. They inculcate a sense of fear among those destined to be at their mercy. With a paper and pen ready, they are constantly waiting to pounce on their victims just so they can attach another notice on the board of disorderly conduct. The Washrooms: It is an absolute pain walking into a wet washroom. The pain scale shoots to 10 when the washroom is ...

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Screaming from the margins

Persecution doesn’t always have to be physical. I cannot even begin to imagine the horrors of being physically abused, which is a daily reality for millions of women (and men) all around me (although the threat of that too is omnipresent), but there is a more subtle kind of persecution that absolutely none of us escape. Being a woman is bad enough, but if you are a woman and a hardcore feminist (and perhaps a few other progressive things along with that), well than god be with you. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not a women versus. men thing. I almost wish it ...

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The mockery of education

Pakistan is a country of 170 million people with an average literacy rate of 57 per cent only. The education sector has always been treated like an illegitimate child when it comes to annual budget allocations. A great chunk of the federal budget goes to military and defense. It has been the same old story this year. The defense budget was raised by 17 per cent in the annual federal budget under the pretext of ongoing war against militants while the spending on education is less than 3 per cent. According to a recent report by Sharmila Farooqui, advisor to ...

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When I was a ghost

Three years from today, if I was given a course assignment, I would log on to the internet, browse a few sites, copy, paste and get done. To copy from one source is cheating, but to copy from several sources is research. That’s how I justified it till I started academic writing – yet another unjustified endeavour. For all the academic writers (aka ghost writers) here, you know who you really are. You write papers for students from all the big universities worldwide. What the hirer calls it is ‘assisting’ the students perform better. Or is it? Here’s the rule. They ...

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When you’re a woman

Gender differences in occupational employment are a reality and in Pakistan, a very small number of women are employed in the formal sector. But in the informal sector, the economic contribution of women is huge. Development economics teaches us that women subsidise the economic activities of men. In their role as caregivers and homemakers, they are performing work that makes it easier for men to perform theirs, but there is an important distinction. Men are by and large the breadwinners, the ones with access to financial resources while women are financially dependent – their work leads to no financial remuneration ...

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College life and the dilemma of red tape

I belong to the 2006 batch of Bahria University. After completing two semesters at BU, one day my mom asked me to show her my interim transcript. Figuring I needed a print copy of my transcript, I went to the examination department, who promptly said, “sorry, we can’t give you the transcript since there is no paper.” I was a bit puzzled over such an unlikely excuse. The next day, I was informed by a couple of friends, “They give this paper excuse to everyone, they don’t want to give transcripts out”. I didn’t give up and went to the Director Academics. He ...

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