Marria Qibtia S Nagra
A mere glance at the current state of educational institutions and practices across Pakistan manifest a grave reality, the fact that education alone does not create human beings imbued with a sense of right and wrong, but education focusing on morals and values certainly does. Be it the heart wrenching case of Mashal Khan, who was brutally killed by egged university fellows on the alleged claims of blasphemy, or the mysterious case of Noreen Leghari, a medical student who despite studying in one of the reputed medical institutions of the country ended up joining the ISIS, or even the recurrent display of violence by student wings of Punjab University, all episodes of truculent repugnance allude to the degenerative posture of youth of the country, the ones who were in fact tasked with the responsibility of upholding the honour and dignity of nation’s resolve to root out extremism , yet in reality ended up resorting to all that they were to combat and stand tall against.
These student’s adherence to such vile modes of behaviour shake the very soul of humane individuals, making them wonder how could a human being, the crown of all creations, regress to such an extent where the conscious infliction of pain on others is nothing but a choice like many others, a choice that is accompanied with unequalled repercussions. A reality forsaken in this context is the role that educational institutions play in conscious or unconscious encouragement of extremist tendencies in their students, hence qualifying as culpable stakeholders in breeding violence in the youth. It was surely not without a reason that Teddy Roosevelt once remarked that, a man who has not had access to formal education may steal a freight car and a man who has a university degree may steal an entire railroad, thereby alluding to the dynamics of ignorant morals and values imparted to students at varsities, where these areas enjoy little emphasis and consideration.
It is an undeniable fact that in Pakistan, as in some other areas of the global society, education has become an increasingly capitalist endeavor where instructors focalize their attention on producing robotic pupils , imparting little thoughtfulness to their character development and moral upbringing, something that should in practice qualify as their primary focus. This primarily germinates from the fact that in Pakistan the profession of educationists is not accorded the reverence it deserves since teaching is believed to be a “convenient” and “alternative” profession, something that one can engage in when other professional choices are limited. This reason accounts for the failure of teachers in infusion of moral values and dictums in their students, since propelled by monetary safeties, this area does not interest them.
The practice of corporal punishment at the primary level in Pakistani schools where deeming it convenient, instructors beat and spank children in order to discipline them is also to be impugned for mushrooming extremist tendencies in students. Their very act of violence seals the future mode of actions of such students. The non-ductility of perceptions and opinions on variant notions is also an ambit in which the educational institutions foster extremism. It is a culture oft-practised in educational institutions where a student voicing up on an observation that falls beyond the ambit of acceptability is dared not acknowledged let alone appreciated for thinking out of the box, and highlighting a perspective not alluded to before. It is such a constricted environment that births intemperate personalities deeming it legitimate to refer to the pronouncers of aberrant notions as deviants that deserve to face the music for doing what others fear to do-think out loud.
In the light of this reality, the pertinent question that springs up is of how to encourage the character building of students in educational institutions infusing in them morals and values conducive to their personal development and the burgeoning of the society. For this first and foremostly of all, the study of subjects pertaining to humanities and social sciences need to be encouraged amongst the students. It is through the study of such historical and informative subjects that students would develop an understanding of the functionality of the individual and societal psyche. The widespread perception that such subjects have a zero utility score and are not practical enough needs to be done away with since it is through the clear comprehension of such subjects that the society evolves rather than devolves. A strict focus on sciences is not mandatory for societal growth, instead what is required is a balanced approach towards the two fields of studies, where science focuses on technological advancement, and humanities focuses on the improvement of human soul and society.
Moreover, educational institutions must arrange for character building sessions that are mandatory for the students to attend. These sessions should groom students, nurturing in them the practical distinction making power between right and wrong and the basic ethical standards irrespective of their religious denominations and backgrounds. Additionally, educational institutions must encourage and foster debates and discussions on matters of personal as well as socio-political relevance. It needs to be comprehended that suppressing the voices of students only breeds extremist tendencies, since the students in order to voice their pent up opinions resort to violence as a conducive means. Therefore, institutions must allocate proper space and time for students to express their distresses. Lastly, considering the pervasiveness of extremist ideologies on the Internet, it becomes imperative to monitor the online spaces accessed by students. Being susceptible targets, such students end up with the radicalisation of their impressionable minds. To curb this, there needs to be proper system of checks and balances that takes into account the websites accessed by students, outlining for them the signifiers of hazardous content.
I have long maintained that education is a potent medium for the reformation and progression of a society since it is believed to not only enlightens one’s mind but also determines and defines one’s actions and modes of practices. However, the concern that all Pakistanis need to concentrate on at the moment is that can the present education institutions really influence the mindsets of the individuals if they fail to draw attention upon the ethical basis of their decisions making endeavour? Can one really be called educated enough if he fails to voice up on the injustices around him that mandate necessary attention and consequent action? It needs to be realized that for Pakistan to labour an educated population in true sense of the word, a population that respects rule of law, a focalisation on character and moral development of the people need to be ensured, which best starts from educational institutions. Failure to learn and imbibe moral values would simply breed wolves parading under façade of human beings, resorting to ferociousness as a mode of sustenance a recourse repudiating the very essence of humanity.
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. She has a profound interest in English literature, psychology & IR.