Where are our legends? —Zebunnisa Hamid

Much like our TV serials, hockey no longer enjoys the success or the reputation it once did. Even cricket is barely hanging on, with more headlines on our players’ escapades than on their feats on the field

Too often, one hears of young people complaining of how bored they are, of how there is nothing to do. For an individual, it’s a natural way to feel from time to time. When it seems to affect an entire generation, however, it’s dangerous.

Bored teenagers, roaming the streets looking for something interesting to do, spells disaster.

It is very easy to blame the “kids of today”, to brush it off as this generation’s problem. But the truth is that this generation’s problem is everyone’s problem and the answer lies in the way our society has evolved over the years.

There are many factors that have played a role in this. While technology has brought with it many benefits, it has also made life more solitary. Watching TV, spending long hours in front of the computer or playing video games minimises human interaction.

One doesn’t need to step out of the house to experience things. Visit new places or experience new things simply by watching a movie (or a reality show) or merely surfing the Internet. Or better still, play in the football world cup without ever physically kicking a ball.

School, therefore, should be a welcome break from this solitary life. Instead it is further alienating individuals. Winning is no longer a team effort. Students go up against each other for the best grades and academic awards that underscore individual achievement.

Furthermore, academic achievement is all that counts anymore. No one takes pride in the best singers, actors, debaters or athletes at school. Sole emphasis lies in who gets the best grades.

But education is not just about studying Math, Science or English, but about producing well-rounded individuals, who can go on to excel in whatever field they choose and contribute to the development of their country.

Therefore, emphasis needs to be placed on other activities as well, such as sports, music, literature and the arts. This is where schools come in and where our schools, as a whole, have failed.

Sports in this country are in a dismal state; we have no theatre or cinema to speak of; and there are only a handful of writers and artists who have managed to make a name for themselves.

I hear people say: we are a poor nation; we have bigger problems to think about; who can worry about sports or the absence of a vibrant art scene or whether we are breeding writers, debaters and thinkers.

This, I find, is hardly an excuse. You can’t ignore one thing in order to work on another. To be a truly healthy society, everything must move together.

Also, it wasn’t always like this. There was a time when everyone in the city knew who the best collegiate debater was or who the top actors in college plays or the best performers at music events were.

That generation still remembers their names, what they looked like, how tall they were or how they used to smile.

I love hearing stories of these legends — including Lahore’s legendary rivalry between Islamia College and Government College in the finals of the cricket tournaments — and feel envious of those days. These people were real role models.

The actors and performers went on to become famous TV personalities and the athletes played for their country on the international stage. Pakistan’s TV serials were famous and the hockey and cricket teams were the best in the world.

This is not surprising as hockey and cricket were the most popular sports in schools as well, and athletes would start their journey to the top at a very young age. There would be school tournaments in every district, and the best athletes would go on to play for their university, which was considered a great honour. Much of the national team would consist of these very players.

The picture is very different today. Much like our TV serials, hockey no longer enjoys the success or the reputation it once did. Even cricket is barely hanging on, with more headlines on our players’ escapades than on their feats on the field. But it is not all their fault.

There is no system in place through which these athletes can get to the top through school and college sports. They are not receiving the sort of education experience their predecessors did, and which is now required in order to be able to compete successfully in the international arena.

Schools need to take on the responsibility of providing a complete education, one that goes beyond the classroom. They need to think beyond academics and take up concrete programmes to identify and develop sporting talent in the community. This requires an investment in good infrastructure with playing fields, theatres and studios.

But admittedly, every school can’t afford this and shouldn’t need to build its own facilities. This is where community centres come in. They ought to provide facilities shared by various schools in the community.

This must be coupled with a change in the level of dedication by teachers, commitment by students, and support by parents. Our could-be legends and heroes of the future should not spend their evenings looking for something to do, or at tuition centres or in front of the television or the computer.

Instead, they should be on the playing field, at practice or rehearsal, doing something interesting and constructive — something that expresses who they are, develops their talents and interests and builds us better citizens.

The writer teaches at the Beaconhouse National University

Source: The Daily Times, 4/7/2008

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