“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”
Pakistan’s timeline can be divided into the command, the Benazir-Nawaz interregnum, the Musharraf stretch, and finally Imran Khan’s colloquial administration.
Through time, one aspect is common – the absence of education, and the religion- motivated terrorism because of it. Perhaps this begs the question, was the plan to dumb down the population over time and control them?
Pakistan’s low public spending on the education sector restricts its citizens from active participation in social and economic activities. Education helps open windows to the mind and creates avenues. It broadens a person’s perspective and generates endless possibilities and civil and peaceful solutions to major conflicts and problems.
So how can Pakistan change its trajectory living in a constant fight or flight mode?
In the name of education, madrassas are spewing venom in young minds. The curriculum that should be decided by policymakers and experts is controlled by ulemas and religious leaders. The product of such vile institutions is radical, intolerant young adults with negligent life skills, earning potential, or the basic capacity to think. Wilder than animals here is South Asia’s youngest population, poverty-stricken and hungry, the deadliest combination.
One can imagine youth without work, hoping for work, carrying the burden of religious etiquette which forbids thought, and promotes medieval backwardness. The deterioration in education can be assessed when in the month of Sep 2023, the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) released the results of its competitive exam, for recruitment of officers in the civil services of Pakistan. The criteria are simple; the candidate has to be a university graduate. The cream of higher education participates in this exam. The FPSC reported that out of 20,000 candidates, only 393, or 1.94 percent passed the first stage. The authorities were shocked to see the future of Pakistan “confusing north with south and east with the west”.
Watching this, educated parents put their life savings on the line to send their children to the Gulf or the West for jobs and higher education. The divide between school- educated and madrassa-going children is so wide, that the youngsters from the two societies refuse to intermingle, one because of the capacity for logical thought, and the other because of the alienation from it. For the sake of sanity and employment opportunities, children are forced to leave their homeland and start afresh.
The economic crises, paired with the COVID-19 and floods of 2022, have deepened and added greatly to this education crisis. Perhaps that is why the economy is looming and there are no saviors. Pakistan’s ex-Finance Minister, Miftah Ismail was “unceremoniously removed and replaced” by a political puppet just when he started to do the country some good. The government has repelled any genuine leaders and swapped them with corrupt leadership. Pak Army which has time and again been declared a human rights violator, a double-dealer, will now enjoy even greater control over government institutions. While their children study in Ivy Leagues in the West, the Army creates militants out of Pakistani children teaching them ideas of jihad over science.
A celebrated Pakistani theoretical physicist, Dr. Abdus Salam, who won the Nobel Prize in 1979 and started Pakistan’s Space Program was forced to wind it up a few years earlier in 1974. Pakistan’s growing intolerance and religious fiefdom got the best of this Ahmadi man, who was declared a disbeliever by his countrymen with the amended constitution. Decades after the fall of Pakistan’s space ambitions, in the era of the internet, Pakistan is a flat earther.
In an interview last week, the caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul Haq admitted that the “civilian institutions are performing quite poorly in the last three-to-four decades” including “education services” in the list. He declared that in the face of the “poor governance challenge, the only institution which has the organizational capability left is military”. Time is witness to how at the Army’s behest the Pakistani youth has seen the worst suffering. Is the economic crisis a ticket to exert absolute military control in Pakistan?
The worst part about it all is that the youth cannot even comprehend the disaster awaiting them. Unequipped with the mental faculties, they cannot read between the lines. The primary goal of education is cultivating curiosity and encouraging critical thinking. However, for the Pakistani Army and leadership, education is a tool for growing ignorant sheep, ready to fight battles on their behalf. Otherwise which civilized society funds wars over schools?