Opportunities for all

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE major flaw in the education sector in Pakistan that hardly ever figures in popular discourse is the deeply rooted inequity which denies underprivileged children access to academic excellence. This is not a one-time phenomenon. It is a self-perpetuating one.

The offspring of middle-class parents face a formidable challenge when they seek admission to a public-sector medical university, let alone the elite private institutions which charge a forbidding fee. Even government institutions now impose heavy tuition charges that are unaffordable for the majority of the people. Denied education of good quality, can these children ever hope for upward mobility which comes with a good job?

Graduates of SIMS at the convocation with Dr Adib Rizvi, director, SIUT (in white coat)
Graduates of SIMS at the convocation with Dr Adib Rizvi, director, SIUT (in white coat)
In this context, it was a pleasure to see history being made at Pakistan’s first physician assistants’ convocation at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation’s SIMS (Sindh Institute of Medical Sciences). Last week, 252 young graduates (58pc women) received their four-year BS degree in various medical technology disciplines ranging from operation theatre science, to nuclear medicine and radiotherapy. Thirty-four nurses (including five men) also received their diplomas.

What makes SIMS different from other medical colleges and universities that have now followed suit and begun to train physician assistants? SIMS has proved that technical education can be made accessible to the underprivileged free of charge. In fact no one admitted there is required to pay any fees. As for other institutions, charging fees which run into lakhs of rupees, they are following the iniquitous pattern set in recent years.

Prof Anita Ghulam Ali, the chief guest, hands over a BS degree to a graduate at the SIMS convocation
Prof Anita Ghulam Ali, the chief guest, hands over a BS degree to a graduate at the SIMS convocation
The basis of this approach is the SIUT’s philosophy that has spawned SIMS. The objective is not to meet any market demands for commercialisation purposes.

Dr Adib Rizvi, director of the SIUT, has unwaveringly believed that healthcare is the birthright of every person and no one should be allowed to die because he or she cannot afford medical treatment. In line with this principle, the SIUT has treated ill people free of charge, all the while ensuring their dignity, for the last 40 years. In the market-driven world of profits and commercialism, the SIUT has strived to uphold its philosophy by developing a model which Dr Rizvi insists can be emulated.

Prof Anita Ghulam Ali gives degree to a graduate at the SIMS convocation
Prof Anita Ghulam Ali gives degree to a graduate at the SIMS convocation
The SIUT as a public-sector facility has entered into a triangular partnership with the community and doctors. The community donates generously to supplement the government’s funding while the doctors provide the best medical services possible to patients without charges — and round the clock. Since the institute keeps pace with the latest medical technology, it has expanded as and when the need arises. There is also the growing workload created by an increasing patient population to be taken care of.

SIMS was born in 2009 as a degree-awarding institution when an acute need for trained manpower began to be felt. The Zainul Abideen School of Medical Technology had already been set up in 2005 followed by the School of Nursing in 2006. Since the SIUT also deems education (including access to technical education) a fundamental right of the people, this parallel expansion made sense.

As is the SIUT’s culture, the constant struggle to raise the bar continues. While talking to some of the graduates who were awarded the four-year BS degree last Wednesday, I got an insight into the transformation SIMS had brought into their lives. Abdul Qadir, a graduate in operation theatre science and now working at the SIUT, went to a government school and a public-sector college. With the tough competition and high fees for admission to technical institutions, there were few prospects of his talents ever being allowed to bloom.

At SIMS he passed the entry test comfortably and the four-year course has groomed him for a successful career. He says what he found most useful was SIMS’ clinical-centred teaching along with lectures on theory.

Erum Ara, who studied at The Citizens Foundation School in North Karachi and a government college, got a BS in critical care sciences from SIMS. She had dreamed of becoming a doctor but couldn’t make it to the Dow University of Health Sciences. She doesn’t regret her failure one whit. At SIMS, where she cleared the entry test easily, she feels she has benefited immensely from the environment that promotes self-esteem, and the excellent faculty that is more effective by virtue of its clinical approach in teaching.

This is what equity in education means. It is not just opening doors for everyone, but also providing equal opportunities for high quality education for all. In fact, this must be introduced from the primary level to be effective.

Only conscientious government functionaries can do that. It is not generally remembered that the SIUT began as an eight-bed ward of the Civil Hospital that was nurtured into the exemplary institution it is today. It is not an NGO as Dr Rizvi did not use the Civil Hospital Karachi as a stepping stone to build a private charity hospital as others have done.

Source: Dawn

9 thoughts on “Opportunities for all”

  1. You write : "——–It is not just opening doors for everyone, but also providing equal opportunities for high quality education for all. -…"

    As i see it, private schools close their doors to the poor. This is done by charging high tuition fees and keping aloof from the less privileged . That's a legacy from our feudal ,colonial past. Government-run schools are the ordinary schools for the ordinary folk. However , from the institutions managed by this 'public-sector' , many brillant students do manage by sheer *MERIT* to overcome any disadvantages. Later they do as well as some students from the *elite-schools* ; provided that some one helps them financially and by way of extra academic input , out side school hours.

    In both kinds of schools and colleges, whether public or private , it is the QUALITY of teaching that does the trick. Some teachers are dedicated. Others just can not teach ,even after having had suitable higher education and teaching-degrees.

    When one employs a new teacher , there is no way of ensuring that the person selected will eventually teach in a creative manner, or just be someone who talks ,while the students sleep in class.

    Quality education ? In today's world both the students and the teachers , work ONLY towards achieving *high marks in the final examination*. Such high grades **DO NOT** reflect their real understanding of the subject. Quality education needs to be tested by an emphasis on *what the student has UNDERSTOOD ; not on what has been crammed before an exam.*

    Quality education is the distillate of all the essential concepts which are the base of the subject under study.

    Today, just to talk about two important subjects , Mathematics and Physics, the syllabii contain many more topics at an earlier stage of schooling. Knowledge load has increased.

    In mathematics, teachers do not teach the real *theory* nowadays. That's because *theory* is not much asked for in the question papers. So everyone just learns to solve the NUMERICALS. Many do not bother to memorize the formulae of mathematics. In fact , they do not know * HOW TO MEMORIZE* formulas !!

    In physics , the situation is frankly ABSURD !!! Why do i say this ? That's because in the Standard X1 one has to use formulas and concepts, which are actually taught from basics-upwards only in Std X11.
    In Std X11 , for instance the kids are taught to derive the formulas of some topics of Physics ( it called "LINE INTGRALS" ), but line-intrgration can only be understood in the first year learning of degree-level mathematics.

    So what do the students do ? Many have to study Biology, Chemistry & Physics in STD X1 and X11 ___ they have no aptitude for the mathematics behind learning Physics. So, simple !!! Cram the derivations of Physics for the EXAM !!

    That's not quality learning >>> it is all forgotton one day after the examination.

    1. Indeed private schools have shut their doors to the poor. Everywhere private schools offer to educate only those who can afford to pay their fees; this phenomenon is not unique to Pakistan. We must remember that private schools are not run as charities. If some sponsors have invested large sums of money in setting up such schools, they have an expectations of a reasonable return on their investment. We have voted in a new government, why don't we urge them to improve the standard of education in state run schools, rather than running down private school who are by and large providing quality education to those who can afford to pay for it.

      1. This is an addendum to my comment earlier in the week. In my opinion, our provincial governments should outsource a handful of schools in major cities and town to those individuals and groups who are successfully running private schools. For instance, about (say) 10 schools should be initially outsourced in cities like Karachi and Lahore to see how those outsourced schools performed, and if the experiment is successful, it should then be extended to include other schools in the programme.

        Could Zubeida please comment?

  2. ..yes, we need more such teaching/training institutes in the public sector…(starting from schools).which will hopefully narrow the widening gap between the haves & have-nots…..

  3. Class societies have always used what Althusser called the 'ideological state apparatus' of which education is foremost to reproduce the existent relations of production, namely, to maintain the disequilibrium between the owinign and labouring sectins of society, between wage worker and expropriator. In that sense Pakistan is not unique, although the other social axes of the ISA may perhaps be more repressive there than in more open democracies.

  4. Behind all such srories,there is a human heart beating for the marginalised and the deprived.Here it is Dr Adeeb Rizvi
    Thankyou for making it public.

  5. Why are there two streams in the process of imparting education ; why do some institutions cater to the need of the elite, others educate the lower-middle class and working class children ? And , most important , why is there a * MADRASA* wing for getting an education in Pakistan ?
    Does the Constitution of the Islamic Republic not put foreward the hope of an ideal society which is egalitarian ? So should not this concept of all citizens being offered an equal ( level ) field for acquiring an education be a integral part of the individual's inherent equality in the eyes of GOD. All men are equal ___at birth !!!

    Apart from getting an education which enables the individual to climb up the professional and social ladder, is there not a visible need to educate every citizen to be honest, patriotic, tolerant. Is not social service and a corruption free society a part of our ideals ?

    Education ? Yes, of course, quality education for all . That includes an all round educated citizen who is not utterly selfish. If not, you will notice that the well educated migrtate to the western countries. It's is a brain-drain which society can ill-afford.

    What about western-educated Pakistanis coming back to serve the country , even if it means obscurity, a waste of talent and a grossly low income ?

  6. Let us hope that OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL is there likewise NATURE's BLESSINGS (Sun shines for all, wind blows equally for all etc.etc.) are available for all.

    But we know that all man made OPPORTUNITIES are never for ALL but for selected one.

  7. The ideal is :__"…equal opportunities for high quality education for all. – …"

    All men are BORN equal . Soon after that , inequality takes over. In any good school , where the teacher :student ratio is held at 1: 30 from the primary classes upwards , one observes that the full batch of students in one class are expected to show a uniform performance . Academic tests show that each child learns at his own speed ; NOT at the speed of the class.
    Eventually the class has about 8 students who do very well , 10 who are below the mark ; the rest , AVERAGE.

    Not every child turns out to be a physical Hercules. Individuals have limitatons in aptitude and interest. Some give up on the science subjects and mathematics. Yet , parents and society expect and demand that each child perform very high at the EXAMINATIONS.

    Lets take the example a 5 km road race. If I know that I will be able to come first,second or third , there is no need for me to cheat. But in academic tests and examinations there is social/parental pressure. So students CHEAT at the exams.

    What are the statistics about mass-cheating in our examinations ? Evidently, it is quite high. Once a student gets used to the idea of cheating at the examinations , the need to be a good quality pupil does not exist. There is an easy way out.

    Thherefore our interviews and pre-admission one-to-one interwies become eye-openers. The selectors are particular. Those who really know their academic subjec-matter sail through. The rest have to opt for less wanted jobs and posts and university choices. The corporate – sector selects the very BEST.

    The others head for * a government job* : good pay , less work, no accountability.

    Looks like the real world of OPPURTUNITIES is definitely lake a pyramid : the room at the top gets progressively narrow.
    Real ability counts.

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