By Bushra Zulfiqar
Education is not only the path towards economic development and social progress but it essentially is also the push factor towards human excellence and intellectual liberation. It is the art of knowledge creation and the pursuit of unraveling the ultimate truths of universe, which intensely captivates human intellect. Education, if looked at objectively is the only way to achieve the God gifted potential of human mind, the brain power. Through education, and importantly the right kind of education, a process of openness of heart, mind and soul takes root. Moral consciousness, human sensitivity, social justice, tolerance, pluralism and an equality of all beings are some of the seeds it sows, in the fertile and raw brains. Keeping that process directed and goal oriented is a lifelong course, and ironically very few remain focused on the self exploratory path and that too by default and not by design. The system fails to comprehend, excite and facilitate education as a lifelong process of discovery, starting from self and gradually encapsulating all, all under the sun. A right kind of education is the undisputable solution to all human, social and economic problems. It is the not just a solution but it is a means to achieving the highest levels of civilization comprising of intellectual and technological advancement.
The sheer objectivity of such and education addresses all issues prevalent in Balochistan today. Be it poverty, feudalism, political violence, ethnic discrimination and injustice, only a meaningful, research based and knowledge driven education system is the durable and long lasting solution to all these problems. With education comes self realization, respect for diversity, disagreements and a happy acceptance of a peaceful coexistence with different and differing ideological and political beliefs, ways of remembering God i.e. ritualism leading to religious harmonization. In the context of Balochistan, education today is far from satisfactory. The Sate run education system is functioning beyond its absorptive capacity to run schools in far flung areas. The typology and terrain is such that population is scattered and proper transportation means are not in place. This hampers accessibility by teachers and students as well as Government’s management and monitoring of schools. There is also this increasing private sector expansion particularly for provision of primary education but even here quality remains elusive. Charging high fees, the private schools have become much commercialized with little accountability and credibility as providers of quality education. Since the Province is pretty rich in having Donors run development initiatives, the foreign assistance has some interesting success stories but cannot be expected to fill in the vacuum, as sustainability always remains a question mark. However, all is not gloom and there is a growing activism in civil society circles for advocating the importance of education and realizing it as a fundamental right of all children. The diversity in children is beginning to be embraced and social protection and mainstreaming of working/street children/child sex workers is being highlighted. The fact that these issues are not buried under the carpet any more is a very positive start. This process will have some socio-cultural taboos and some interest groups may not be approving of its connotations, but the good thing is that it is irreversible and on-going. This momentum has to continue and all citizens including parents, teachers, students, activists, politicians and civil society have to proactively pursue, advocate and promote education in its own right, suited for life, livelihood and nation building in the 21st century.
In addition to a peaceful social order, such an education will increase and open up the marketability of individuals, thus providing them with opportunities for increased earnings and economic growth. Other than increasing the purchasing power of people, it will make them connected with a larger diaspora in this increasingly globalized world order. This is a different time, yet an interesting one where access to worldwide information is just the bare minimum, thanks to astounding Google and the likes. The information revolution and interconnectedness of societies has lead to a continuous and rich exchange of ideas, arts and cultures transgressing borders. This social, economic and spatial restructuring of the world can be guided towards greater good for larger numbers through an equal footing for all players. A strong knowledge driven education system matched with world class quality research is the strongest catalyst for that equality of opportunity.
In this world where change is the only constant, the need for an enlightening education which goes beyond numbers and straight statistics is just urgent. Call it a desperate wish or an education emergency, the need has to be recognized without any single delay. If there is a single place in the country where the need is urgent, it is Balochistan. With this realization, a lot can be done but without it, nothing can be done. It is for every living person, woman or man, rich or poor, Pushtun or Baloch, Shiite or Sunni, labour or landowner, employed or unemployed to realize that education is important. It has to be thought beyond primary, secondary and tertiary levels, beyond the mental blockages of getting into elite English medium institutions and securing grades and jobs.
The purpose is to explore, internalize and expand human ability which inherently is miraculous and knows no limits.