A new venture

By Zubeida Mustafa

AWAY from the bustle of downtown Karachi in a remote area of Korangi bordering Ibrahim Hyderi, where our fishermen eke out a hazardous living, an experiment in social engineering is taking place. It is expected to be a milestone in the history of healthcare in Pakistan.

This new venture — the Mehrunnisa Hospital — is seemingly a modern hospital for the poor like any other, waiting to open its doors fully to patients. They are bound to visit it in droves once the bus routes are adjusted to make it accessible by public transport.

Built by a philanthropist — businessman Haroon Abdul Karim — it was donated by him to the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation in January 2013. Abdul Karim’s obsession was that patients be provided services absolutely free of charge. He visited hospitals incognito and felt that the SIUT alone met his criteria.

What makes Mehrunnisa so different that it is expected to be a model? Continue reading “A new venture”

We are to blame

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST Tuesday’s carnage by the Taliban in Peshawar has left the nation in grief and shock. Such was the enormity of the crime — more than 130 young lives snuffed out brutally — that the emotions it stirred have yet to subside.

The post-Peshawar reactions are intense. But will this be a watershed event? Many think not. Public attention has already started to wander. The discourse is changing. The lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty that has led to a spree of hangings has invited Continue reading “We are to blame”

The role of language in education and its impact on society

By Zubeida Mustafa

Language which is a basic capacity with which man has been endowed is something that distinguishes the human being from all living species. It is a multi-dimensional issue that has an impact on every sector of life and human relationships. Here I am reminded of a seemingly small slip of language that could have led to a chain of events that in turn could have preempted the formation of this alliance between Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences and the Hamza Alavi Foundation, the sponsors of today’s talk.

It was way back in the late nineties when Prof Hamza Alavi was preparing to return home to Karachi after his retirement from Manchester University that a colleague of mine at Dawn, Ghayurul Islam, who was also a founding member of Irtiqa, requested me to introduce Irtiqa to Professor Alavi. Since I had met Hamza Bhai and was in touch with him I could always write to him, Ghayur Sahib suggested. I agreed and sent Hamza Alavi an email mentioning this group of intellectuals who were keen to meet him on his return to Karachi and to have a working relationship with him. That was all fine except that I made a faux pas. I jumbled up the alphabets when describing this venerable group – a different Continue reading “The role of language in education and its impact on society”

Breaking the cycle

By Zubeida Mustafa

PSYCHIATRISTS in Pakistan have been crying themselves hoarse about the rise of mental illness in the country. Ever since militants and religious extremists have unleashed their terror on the hapless population, the incidence of anxiety and depression has been on the rise. But these disorders are stigmatised and are not publicly discussed.

There is much talk about poor governance, corruption and even the falling level of tolerance in society but no one wants to mention the impact of these problems on the mental health of the people and how the latter’s attitudes and mindsets reinforce the conditions that gave birth to the problems in the first place.

  In an article in the New Internationalist Magazine, Samah Jabr, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Jerusalem, pointed out that worse than the 2,133 deaths, 11,000 injuries and the destruction of countless homes caused by Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza in July-August 2014 was the psychosocial damage inflicted by the war. She said, “the destruction of life at a physical and material level is also the destruction of a way of life, the destruction of a point of view: physical warfare brings with it psychological warfare”. She warned that violence will “beget an unending spiral of victimhood and revenge, of polarisation … [and] of further trans-generational trauma”.

Also read: Psychiatrists concerned about plight of IDPs

This is precisely what is happening in Pakistan. Most upsetting is the psychological warfare taking place and the ground has been softened for it by the ineptitude and corruption of successive governments. The destruction of our education system, moral Continue reading “Breaking the cycle”

Malala’s Pakistan

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contMALALA – the world’s youngest Nobel Laureate – and why: because she was shot at and almost killed in her country for speaking up for education for girls. On Dec 10. Pakistanis shed tears watching her receive the prize – so well-deserved; so devastatingly earned.

This girl-child’s was the most effective voice – the one bigots needed to silence them. Pakistan’s child Malala’s glory indicts Pakistan’s adults. Continue reading “Malala’s Pakistan”

Assistive technology

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN a recent interview, Prof Stephen Hawking, the famous astrophysicist, said that the full development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. He added that technology would eventually become self-aware and supersede humanity, as it developed faster than biological evolution.

Prof Hawking who can be termed a rare miracle personifying courage, spirit and natural intelligence, is a beneficiary of modern communication technology. He suffers from motor neuron disease and according to the doctors’ prognosis should have died 50 years ago. He has not only defied those predictions but has led a productive life contributing to his field. Continue reading “Assistive technology”

Teachers’ voices

By Zubeida Mustafa

TEACHERS have been in the news recently as it is universally recognised that the quality of education and the learning output of children in any society depend preponderantly on teachers’ performance and academic standards.

Hence considerable improvement can be brought about only if we focus on the teachers on a priority basis. The Children’s Literature Festival has added a day for teachers since its Karachi session in February this year. Once again teachers got a day to themselves before the CLF opened in Lahore last week. Earlier, two reports titled The Voice of Teachers by Alif Ailaan and SAHE’s report on Teaching and Learning English in Sindh’s Schools Continue reading “Teachers’ voices”

Justice in jobs

By Zubeida Mustafa

WHEN human rights are in the news, the focus is invariably on civil and political rights such as life, liberty and democracy. Their violation causes explosive reactions. Rights that are not of a political nature are not so visible though their continued denial has a profound and insidious impact on the lives of a far greater number of people. They are like slow death that kills society itself.

These are the rights that have a role to play in sustaining human life with dignity which is no less than the right to life itself. Yet strangely enough, these seemingly mundane issues such as jobs, education and housing do not receive the same attention in public forums globally. Mercifully, realisation is now dawning in some quarters that there is a solution to the problems caused by the absence of social justice.

If awareness were to be created about these issues, enough pressure could be generated to force the powers that be to take positive measures. With this goal before it, Poster for Tomorrow was formed in 2009 in Paris by a group of artists led by Hervé Matine. Continue reading “Justice in jobs”

Countdown to 90?

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

THE PTI dharna’s sameness and the government’s passivity are fraying nerves: It’s not a good feeling to be stuck in an unpleasant place and going nowhere. Is the democratic light Imran’s adherents set out to see at the end of their leader’s tunnel vision nearing? Is his effort trailblazing and ground-breaking? Not really, Pakistan’s political history has been much too packed with event and surprise; vision and mirage for that. It didn’t need an Imran-Qadri duo to teach the people their democratic rights or how to ask for them. For Pakistan was born out of mass political consciousness; and it is the first uninterrupted completion of a deplorable democratic term in office that has made people so mindful of post electoral delivery and demanding of better governance from the serving government. Overall, 2013’s election results were acceptable to the voters or they wouldn’t have waited for Imran to sound the clarion call about a robbed mandate from atop a container so many months later. Continue reading “Countdown to 90?”

Pitfalls of English

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week, the Society for the Advance­ment of Education launched its report on English-language learning in Sindh schools. The ambiguity that marks parents’ and educators’ understanding of the role of language — especially English — in school education was evident on this occasion.

SAHE’s executive director, Abbas Rashid, however, was spot on when he identified his concerns: does the early introduction of Eng­lish in school help or hinder learning? What happens to the learning of English itself?

A common misconception in Pakistan is that those who speak of teaching children in their mother tongue are opposed to English. That is not true.

In my opinion, children must learn English if their education is to be complete. But I also believe that learning English does not mean that they must be taught all the subjects they are required to study through the medium of English. Continue reading “Pitfalls of English”