Saturday, August 31, 2013
The Express Tribune NewsA drone attack in Northern Waziristan killed four people on Saturday, Express News reported. The drone fired 2 missiles at a house in the Mir Ali area.
The best tribute to Malala’s mission would be to promote the passion and the portals for which she stood, suffered and then vowed to struggle through the rest of her new life The Tipperary and Children International Peace awards have brought a new luster to Malala Yousafzai’s name, the girl exemplar to have defied the harrowing terrorist assault to destroy the dream, drive and the avenues for female education in Pakistan. She has in a way shamed our governments and security shoguns, which despite having lost about 50,000 of their compatriots have stuck to mere sermons and statements but avoided any effective action to neutralise even a few thousand terrorists. Even Malala’s parents were forced to seek shelter overseas, demonstrating that no safety on this soil can be guaranteed to any one marked for opposition to the obscurantist terrorist agenda. The world, at large, however, poured praise and accolades over her including an address at the United Nations and a nomination for the Nobel peace laurel. For the activists of female equality, education and empowerment Malala has become a living incarnate of the idealistic feat that Faiz Ahmed Faiz summed up as Ghoom phir ke koocha-e-qautil se ho aaye hain (We have walked through the assassins’ lanes and lairs). The resounding global applause and recognition swayed even the government of Pakistan to confer an award on her. Yet in real terms, the government flubbed miserably the quintessence of tribute to her courage and sacrifice that evidently demanded to crush the forces that thwart the dream of education for millions of our Malalas and remove the obstacles that impede their path and progress. The best tribute to Malala’s mission thus would be to promote the passion and the portals for which she stood, suffered and then vowed to struggle through the rest of her new life. Crusading for the preeminence of the ‘power of pen and the book’ is now her dream and devotion. Her very life that the western medical expertise so miraculously wrested from the mutilation wrought by her assailants has become a living testament to the power of knowledge. Her mission thus can be best attained by extending education and ensuring an equal and unrestricted access to it not only to every male and female child but also to the grown up enthusiasts who somehow missed this opportunity at their earlier age. Building an adequate string of schools and facilities for this evidently would not be possible in our country where an overtly militaristic mindset has persistently squandered and would definitely keep squandering most of our resources in the security and armament sectors. Still, in this age of innovative information technologies a virtual school support system to spread knowledge and education to all and sundry can be structured at a relatively far lesser cost and investment. The virtual, open or air school system, as some planners may contend, certainly cannot be a substitute for the actual brick, concrete or mud and straw built schools and the guidance and grooming afforded through the personal care, affection and involvement of the teachers. Nevertheless, the virtual version can be a supplementary support to the students, not been endowed with the physical infrastructure, and serve as the sole source of learning for those left out of it. The system, in some ways, of course, can be certainly made even more interesting and effective as the lessons can be designed through the collaborative insight and contribution of highly qualified and visionary teachers and experts including the child education psychologists. The modern techniques of learning through games, hobbies, recreation, routine activities, observations and experience can also be easily incorporated. Such wealth of shared wisdom and expertise cannot be evidently afforded at the actual customary school premises. Some rare additional stimuli can come in the lessons demanding equipment, laboratories, displays and the demonstrations that are generally deficient or non-existent in most of our schools. This strategy could even cut through the constraints of veil and the worries of travel odds and exposure to reach the normal schools as children can learn in their own homes relishing the love and warmth of their own kin and folk or in the company of their friends. The system can of course also be tuned to impart a proper feel and ambience of the actual classroom, sports and school environment by plugging in periodic gatherings and workshops for the learners at various appropriate and conveniently accessible sites. The curricular and co-curricular material similarly can also be provided on radio transmissions, streamed on mobile screens and rendered on audio and video discs. The militant Maulana FM in Swat vitiated the minds of the masses through his jihadi jabber making it incumbent on the forces of peace, tolerance and accommodation to use the same waves as a vehicle to groom the new generations for knowledge to nudge curiosity, creativity, skill building, tolerance and cross cultural harmony and happiness. The virtual or open education systems have already become quite well established at the university level even in countries like Pakistan, which spurred by the prescience and realisation by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, interestingly, was the second nation on earth to have pioneered the institution in May 1974. The world’s first Open University was founded in the UK in 1969, by Harold Wilson, the two-time premier and one of the most illustrious Labour leaders who heralded some really far-reaching socioeconomic reforms. Bhutto became the first world leader to emulate and implement the concept. Enrollment in new virtual instructions or the so-called distant learning now has gradually grown not only in Europe and other continents but also in the world-renowned Ivy League institutions like the Yale and Harvard. Open and virtual universities similarly, notwithstanding various snags and snafus, have been quite satisfactorily functioning in Pakistan. Their mode, mechanics and experiences thus can be also be carefully calibrated to evolve their school stage version. Scores of distant learning schools are actually now operating not only in Canada, several African and South American countries but even in India. The resources required for this system if not provided by the public exchequer can be generated from seed money from the Malala Foundation, NGOs, and some further global courtesy and cooperation. Gordon Brown, a former British Premier (2007-10) and a successor to the Harold Wilson’s mantle, for instance, has often elicited a keen interest in the advancement of education in Pakistan. The USAID that has been already sponsoring several programmes to promote education, training and research, perhaps could also be solicited for appropriate help. The programme once initiated can certainly be made to sustain mostly through advertisement revenues like our TV channels. The system, notwithstanding its mode and management must maintain the real spirit, legacy and efflorescence of the Malala mission as an ever flowing fountain of free and unrestricted access to an absorbing, unbiased and quality based education to all, transcending barriers of faith, sect, creed, caste or ethnic dispensations.