The genesis of violence

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN his excellent keynote address at the fourth Karachi Literature Festival, Urdu fiction writer Intizar Husain, one of the 10 finalists for the Man Booker International Prize for 2013, eloquently reflected on a dilemma.

Should we be celebrating literature in the catastrophic times we live in when people are being killed by the hundreds?

Intizar Sahib said he first delved into the wealth of Urdu and Persian poetry but could not find an answer to his question. To his credit, the speaker turned to prose and the legendary One Thousand and One Nights provided him an insight into how literature could be turned to one’s advantage in adverse circumstances. Didn’t Scheherzade buy her reprieve from execution by her storytelling gift? “Literature can change human nature,” Intizar Sahib concluded in support of the literature festival. Continue reading “The genesis of violence”

Lighting the torch

By Zubeida Mustafa

ACCORDING to the Annual Status of Education Report 2012, only 37 per cent of three-to-five-year-old children are enrolled in pre-schools in rural Pakistan. The enrolment is slightly higher in the urban areas (55 per cent).

This is a serious problem that has profound implications for the goal of ‘education for all’.

Having neglected the education sector for decades, the state is now faced with a huge backlog of out-of-school children the majority of whom have parents with no or little schooling themselves. This, plus poverty, has aggravated the crisis in education for which innovative solutions are now needed. Continue reading “Lighting the torch”

“I have a problem, Baji”

By Zubeida Mustafa

Yasmin has five children and she is just 27 years of age and has been married for nine years. The youngest son was born in July last year and was unplanned. In fact Yasmin had been quite happy with the one boy and three girls she already had.

When she came to me to break the news, she just said, “Baji, I have a problem.” These words captured succinctly the failure of the population planning programme in Pakistan. How else would you put it when a woman is saddled with an unwanted pregnancy, besides poverty and lack of education? Continue reading ““I have a problem, Baji””

One billion rising and…

By Zubeida Mustafa

EVE Ensler, the American playwright and feminist activist, is set to give the final push that she believes will banish violence against women from our lives for ever. She has declared Feb 14, St Valentine’s Day, as V-Day.

Moved by the oft-quoted figure that one woman in three worldwide — that is one billion — is subjected to some form of violence in her lifetime, Ensler has in effect declared enough is enough. It is time for women to rise to proclaim their aversion to violence. Hence the campaign for One Billion Rising (OBR).

These are the women whose problem Ensler wants to bring into the public consciousness. She wants governments to know that “ending violence against women is as important as ending poverty, or AIDS or global warming”. Continue reading “One billion rising and…”

The battle of ideas

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE seminar organised recently by the Forum for Secular Pakistan on ‘Democracy and Secularism’ drove home two basic truths.

First, there can be no democracy without secularism. Secondly, democracy needs a national democratic movement to survive and develop further. The keynote speaker I.A. Rehman, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, elaborated this very succinctly.

On the occasion all the speakers did an excellent job of highlighting the dangers faced by the advocates of secularism in a Pakistan that is under threat of Talibanisation.
For the audience, mostly likeminded liberals who had turned up in sufficient strength — by the standards set by such intellectual exercises — this did not provide new food for thought. The slogans for secularism have been raised again and again for a long time now. Read Sibte Hasan’s book The Battle of Ideas in Pakistan that appeared in 1986 and you know secularism is not a new demand.

Yet, I would say it is not bad strategy to revisit such ideals since this serves to strengthen the conviction of those who stand for them and refresh the memories of others who may have forgotten their history. Continue reading “The battle of ideas”

Parents’ choices of language as the medium of instruction in schools

ASER 2012 Report

By  Zubeida Mustafa

It is now recognized worldwide that the language used as the medium of instruction in primary schools has a profound impact on the child’s learning process. Everything else being equal, children do better academically when they are taught in a language they already know, that is, their home language. Their comprehension is better, their cognition develops faster and they can communicate more effectively as they have the skills to express themselves. They are certainly more confident.

With all the advantages that education in a child’s mother tongue offers, it is surprising that not much attention has been paid to the issue. No language policy for education has been formulated in Pakistan. Neither has any research in the form of a survey on the ground been done. Continue reading “Parents’ choices of language as the medium of instruction in schools”