What the ’81 census reveals

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE situation of women in Pakistan as it emerges from the findings of the 1981 census is still rather bleak. True, the sex ratio, female literacy rate and female labour participation level have registered some improvement over what was recorded in the previous census in 1972. But progress has been so slow in terms of percentages, and the population growth rate so high, that in absolute numbers there are more illiterate women and more women out of the labour force today than there were in 1972. When compared with other countries the position of women in Pakistan emerges as even more dismal.

Continue reading “What the ’81 census reveals”

Population planning: key to all-round betterment

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE ONE factor which has proved to be a major impediment to the socioeconomic development of countries in the Third World is population explosion.

It has now been conclusively established that Governments which have been incapable or unwilling to slow down the population growth rate in their countries have failed to bring about much of a change in the quality of life of their people — whatever be the growth recorded in the sectors which are taken to constitute the indices of economic progress. Conversely, failure to promote the socio-economic development of people results in a high population growth rate.

This was the message to emerge from the seminar on women, children and population held in early November at Jakarta, cosponsored by UNICEF, U’NFPA, the Press Foundation of Asia and the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association. The seminar in which media representatives from seven South and South-East Asian countries participated also had another message to convey. The status of women and children in a society largely determines the rate of population growth, just as an effective population policy has a direct impact on the lives of women and children. It needs no profound thinking to understand the interrelationship between the two.

Social status

Policies directed towards raising the social and economic status of women have a deep bearing on the fertility rate of a country. Thus, a higher literacy level, better health care and employment opportunities for women inevitably lead to lower infant mortality rate (IMR) and a greater willingness to space children and limit the family size. Conversely, a vigorous family planning programme which aims at reducing the number of children a woman gives birth to also helps in improving her status by raising the level of health and nutrition of her family and opening up opportunities for education and employment for her and her children.

These factors are very closely interrelated as is obvious from the statistics pertaining to literacy rate, life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate, female participation in labour force and crude birth rate (CBR) in any given Third World country. It has generally been observed that the better educated the women are, the lower is the infant mortality rate, the higher is the life expectancy at birth and the lower is the crude birth rate. This trend is indicated clearly by the data given for the seven Asian countries for 1981 (these are the countries which were represented in the seminar).

Perhaps the most instructive fact to have emerged from the seminar is that the traditional basic indicator of the health of a country’s economy, namely, the GNP, is not really the key factor in determining the quality of life of its people. Thus, among the countries listed above, Sri Lanka has a per capita GNP of 306 dollars as compared with 350 dollars for Pakistan and yet Sri Lanka has a much lower CBR and IMR and higher life expectancy and literacy rate than Pakistan. Political will

U’NICEF has formulated this concept in terms of the PQLI — the Physical Quality of Life Index which takes into account three elements: the rates of infant mortality, literacy and life expectancy at age one. The PQLI is calculated by giving equal weight to each of these indicators. It is significant that many countries with a high GNP per head have a low PQLI. For instance, Brazil is much richer than Sri Lanka in terms of GNP but Brazil’s PQLI rating is 65 as compared with 80 for Sri Lanka.

In other words, it is now clear that the quality of life of the citizens of a country, which is the real indicator of economic development, depends not on its resources alone. The more crucial factor is the political will and social commitment of the Government and the soundness of the policies it adopts on education, health, population planning, women and children.

An integrated approach, however, is essential if progress is to be made in checking population growth. It is an exercise in futility to seek to reduce the crude birth rate through policies which are directed towards one sector but completely ignore the others. While equal importance needs to be given to every aspect of development of women and children, sufficient emphasis should also be placed on family planning. In Indonesia, the Government has chalked out a programme for the development of women and children which should have a widespread impact on society. It is called GOBI-FF. The acronym stands for growth monitoring of the child, oral rehydration therapy, breast feeding, immunisation, family planning and female education.

populationCollectively, these should boost the health and education level of women while reducing infant mortalitv rate. But the most significant aspect of the programme is that it focusses sharply on family planning. A concerted effort is being made at all levels to make people aware of the need of limiting their family size and spacing their children. This is done through a vigorous family planning programme which aims at informing and educating the people, providing contraceptive services and training personnel. This emphasis on family planning has begun to pay dividends. The crude birth rate per thousand has been brought down drastically from 47 in 1955-60 to 37 in 1975-80 to 32 in the eighties.

Seen in the light of the experience of other Third World countries. Pakistan’s record in family planning stands out as being really dismal. The population growth rate is said to be 2.8 per cent which is on the higher side (the Third World average is 2 per cent). According to UN estimates, the total fertility rate (the average number of children a woman can expect to give birth to) in the Third World is 4.64. In Pakistan it is 5.9. The crude birth rate here is also alarmingly high at 41 per 1,000 as compared with the average of 33 per 1.000 in the other developing countries.

Pakistan’s record

The broad thrust of the Population Welfare programme in Pakistan is correct because it seeks to improve the social, economic and health conditions of women and thus reduce fertility rates. But what is sadly lacking is sufficient emphasis on the clinical aspect of family planning without which no progress can be made in actually cutting down on the crude birth rate. The shyness which has marked the Government’s approach to family planning is not quite understandable. There is greater need for frankness in the Government’s approach to the family planning side of the population welfare programme. A discreet stance has not really paid off because it has not created the social environment necessary for educating the people and motivating them. The message of family planning must be conveyed to the people through the Radio, the Television, the Press and also the Mosque as is being done in Indonesia, a Muslim country like ours. The entire Government leadership has to show the political commitment to make family planning acceptable to the masses.

Source: Dawn 20 Nov 1983

 

The story of high targets, low performance

By Zubeida Mustafa

EDUCATION planning in Pakistan has traditionally been lopsided, with the priorities misplaced. There has been too much emphasis on higher education, while the primary sector has, by and large, been neglected. Consequently, education has been like an inverted pyramid balanced on a narrow base.

The basic weakness in the government’s education policy lies in its reluctance or inability to allocate sufficient funds to this sector. Hence resources have had to be spread thin. Thus in 1982-83 Pakistan spent only 1.5 per cent of its GNP on education. Continue reading “The story of high targets, low performance”

Wrong approach to primary education

By Zubeida Mustafa

WHERE is a Pakistani child at the age of 8 12 years being led to provided he is among those 50 percent who go to school? By the time he is eight—the age at which Dr Montessori, one of the greatest educationists of the century, thinks a child is ready to go to junior school — a Pakistani child has already been attending school for three years , even more if he began his studies at a nursery school. His activities have already been restricted by the rigours and discipline of a regular school at a time he should have been free to be active and explore the world for himself.

If he happens to go to a Government or nationalised school, he would in all probability be one of a class of 80 or 90. His teacher would never get to know him during the course of a year and worse still he would not be learning much while being confined to the restrictive environs of the classroom . Continue reading “Wrong approach to primary education”

Why are our students not avid readers?

By Zubeida Mustafa

SOME students were once asked why they read books — that is books other than their course books. Their answers were quite varied: to kill time; to increase their knowledge; because they were asked to do so by their teacher; to fulfil their social needs; to develop their personalities. Very few said that they read for pleasure. When young people are not reading books voluntarily or because they derive a sense of satisfaction from it, it is not strange that they are not forming life-long reading habits.

Obviously when a person feels under a compulsion or pressure to read, he will abandon is books as soon as he no longer feels the need for them. While a number of young people are reading books as a duty, there are a number of others who are not reading at all, their prescribed texts excepted.

A National Book Council survey conducted in 1981 found that 20 per cent of the students questioned said that they did not like to read. Even those who read, devoted most of the Continue reading “Why are our students not avid readers?”

Publishing industry’s travail: Narrow market, poor technology inhibit expansion

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN 1978, the year for which full statistics are available, 642,000 titles were published in the world. Out of these Pakistan’s share was a meagre 1,317 titles, whereas Japan and West Germany, with smaller population produced over 43,000 and 50,000 titles respectively.

This projects a rather gloomy picture of the state of our book world. Things are said to Continue reading “Publishing industry’s travail: Narrow market, poor technology inhibit expansion”

Quaid for young readers: half-truths

Reviewed by Zuhair Siddiqui

Father of our Nation: Early Life Story, by Hamid Ahmad Khan. Pp. 35. Rs. 5.00. Published by the National Book Foundation for the National Committee for the Quaid-i-Azam’s Centenary Celebrations.

geust-contAPART from being a distinguished scholar and teacher, the late Prof. Hamid Ahmad Khan wielded a facile pen in English as well as Urdu. He was, however, never known for any interest in politics, and when he died a few years ago nobody knew that he had left among his literary remains an unpublished manuscript on the early life of the founder of Pakistan. This is presumably the first part of a full biography for the benefit of the younger generation which he had planned but did not live to complete. Continue reading “Quaid for young readers: half-truths”

Reading habits in children

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE ten-year-old drones on as he pausesat the end of each paragraph glancingfurtively at his teacherfor the eagerly awaited signal to stop.

The four-i ear-old enthusiastically turns the pages of his picture book as be concentrates on whatthe illustrations are trying to convey.

Although the older child is doingwhat would technically be called the act 0f reading recognizing the printed letter and decodingit into pronounceable words it is the four-year-old who isactually doing more readingfor reading is a complete actof communication which correspondsto the act of writing in thesense that it involves responseand feedback from the reader.

Despite the advantages of reinterpretationand retrospectionwhich reading offers, many people are not inclined to take upa book purely for recreation. They would much prefer the TV screen. Surprising thoughit might appear this is the case,to a greater extent, in the developed countries where literacyis universal and where onewould expect to take the readinghabit for granted. Thus it is estimated that in France 53 percent, in Netherlands 40 per centand in Hungary 39 per cent ofthe adults do not read books.But in Bangladesh where literacyis low barelya tenth of the literate people are non-readers, since those whoare literate are highly motivated. Continue reading “Reading habits in children”

Examination reforms – womeneducationists take the plunge

By Zubeida Mustafa

A QUIET revolution in the examination system has already takenplace In one of the leading girls schools of Karachi.With teaching experience of over acentury behind them, aband of devoted women educationists with amissionary zeal have taken the plunge and introduced changes inthe mode of examination which from our standards can be described as really radical.

Talking to the principal of this school, one of the oldest in Karachi which has over 2,000students an Its rolls, I realized what a challenge it must have been to plan, organise and implement the new exam system which is now in its fourth year running. Continue reading “Examination reforms – womeneducationists take the plunge”