An independent think-tank

Education emergency in Pakistan and responsibility of religious scholars

Education is a fundamental right of every Pakistani citizen. Also, it is a religious obligation of every Muslim. All political parties should prioritize education and should work out and implement with consensus a comprehensive, effective and long-term work plan for improving the state of education in Pakistan. These views were expressed by Pakistan’s leading religious scholars who participated in a one-day seminar titled “Education Emergency in Pakistan and the Responsibility of Religious Scholars,” jointly held by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) and Alif Ailaan in Islamabad on April 24, 2013.

Chairman Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Mufti Muneebur Rehman said the existence of multiple education systems in Pakistan including private, public and religious (madrassas) was at the root of the problems facing education in Pakistan. He identified higher fee structures in private educational institutions as a key impediment for children from lower and middle classes to get quality education. Nonetheless, public educational institutions are no more a priority for middle and rich classes due to the low-quality education they impart.

Maulana Tanveer Ahmed Alvi, vice principal of Jamia Muhammadia, Islamabad said education should have been a matter of utmost consideration for us after the establishment of Pakistan but sadly it was not. He cited examples of countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran and India where higher literacy rates have contributed in national development. He blamed Pakistan’s ruling elites for ignoring the education sector and argued that as a first step population should be controlled and then schools should be set up to ensure free and quality education for all with enhanced budget layouts for that purpose. He emphasized that teachers should be the trained professionals, should be treated with respect and also be made part of the policymaking processes in the education sector.

Dr. Raghib Naeemi, principal of Jamia Naeemia, Lahore highlighted the issues of ghost schools?? which exist only on paper and not in reality??and corruption in the education sector in Pakistan. He described the religious obligation and significance of educating both men and women and said educated women could raise and train their children better than uneducated women. He noted that lack of education had resulted in loss of social, cultural and moral values among Pakistan’s people. Education is only considered as a pre-requisite for finding a job, it is not considered as something that would make a person a responsible citizen.

Renowned scholar and journalist Mr. Khursheed Nadeem said while state was failing to take up the responsibility of education, religious scholars should take matters into their own hands to educate those around them. He noted that the role of religious scholars was very significant in creating awareness among people about their rights and obligations.

Maulana Abdul Haq Hashmi, representative of Rabitatul Madaaris Balochistan was of the view that relatively declining interaction among parents and children as compared to past has resulted in decreased home-based education and training of the latter. Parents wrongly expect that the entire education of their children will be taken care of by the schools. It is important for parents to keep a close eye on what their children are studying and ensure constant interaction with them to expand their intellectual horizons. He emphasized that government should establish a long-term roadmap to develop the education sector.

Maulana Muhammad Salfi, administrator of Jamia Sattaria, Karachi said displaying a soft attitude towards students is crucial to ensure that they feel comfortable in class and are encouraged to come to school and learn. He suggested that there should be close interaction between madrassa teachers and teachers of public and private schools to ensure that the best education is provided to the masses with mutual consent of teachers from all sectors of education in Pakistan. He highlighted that urbanization has resulted in decrease in quality of education in rural areas.

Allama Ammar Khan Nasir, Deputy Manager Alsharia Kadmi, Gujranwala hinted at media’s taking over the roles of parents and grandparents in the modern society. He termed the current education system as something that is making “robots” to earn dollars rather than producing human beings bearing good character. He suggested a national-level education manifesto should be prepared in consultation with all stakeholders and segments of society.

Maulana Yasin Zafar, principal of Jamia Salfia, Faisalabad and chief administrator of Wafaqul Madaaris Al-Salfia, Punjab shared the results of a recent survey according to which there are 7,000 ghost schools in Sindh and several schools that only open for 80-90 days in a year. He recommended that parents should have close communication with their children and provide them with a healthy learning environment.

Allama Syed Farhat Hussain Shah, President Minhajul Quran Ulama Council, Lahore, stated that mosques should be considered as 24 hours schools and that madrassas should become an example for all other educational institutions.

Maulana Rooh Allah Madni Chief Khateeb, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa criticized education policies of successive governments in Pakistan since the country was established and termed these policies directionless and vague. He also criticized Pakistan’s political parties for not working towards evolving a comprehensive roadmap for improved and effective education in Pakistan. He recommended that Urdu should be made the medium of instruction in Pakistan like European and other countries teach in their national languages.

Dr. Maulana Attaullah Shahab, Member Gilgit Baltistan Council and administrator of Daral Uloom Gilgit appreciated the roles played by madrassa in educating the people of Pakistan. He criticized the policymakers for not researching enough remote areas of Pakistan before making policies on education. He said that a decision made by policymakers that worked well for schools in Islamabad might not work as effectively in remote areas of FATA.

Mr Zameer Akhtar Mansoorinderlined the importance of an honest political administration to make policies for the state. He identified lack of education among masses as a reason for existing social discord in Pakistan.

Dr Qibla Ayaz, professor at Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Peshawar suggested that education policies should not be set out by governments but the state itself so that their long-term or sustained implementation could be ensured. He concluded by saying that education itself does not bring development but it is the generation of knowledge that empowers a society to develop.

At the end of the seminar the religious scholars issued a unanimous declaration in support of education in Pakistan.