Tag Archives: education

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s message supporting Malala Yousafzai

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon adds his voice to the messages from over 1 million people across the globe.

Text of the Secretary-General video message in support of Malala Yousafzai and Girls’ education:

Malala Yousafzai is a global symbol of every girl’s right to an education.
On November 10th, citizens from across the globe are speaking out for Malala and on behalf of the 61 million children still not in school.
My Special Envoy for Global Education, Mr. Gordon Brown, will deliver a petition in support of Malala and the universal right to education. I am adding my voice to the messages from over 1 million people across the globe.
Education is a fundamental human right. It is a pathway to development, tolerance and global citizenship.
Join us in our campaign to put education first — for Malala and girls and boys throughout the world.

LUMS program gives educational opportunities to rural and underprivileged students

Over the past decade, Lahore University of Management Sciences’ (LUMS) National Outreach Program (NOP) has grown into a huge success, providing advanced educational opportunities to students from remote parts of the country and from underprivileged families. The students who have participated in the program have excelled,

The performance of the NOP scholars has been extremely encouraging as most have done exceptionally well both academically and in extracurricular activities, which reflects their ambitious drive. Of the 518 NOP scholars inducted to date, 145 have graduated and 11 have been awarded the Fulbright scholarship. Amongst those who have graduated, some have received fellowships to join top universities such as Harvard University, National University of Singapore, Cornell University, Columbia University, Georgia Tech, and Ohio Lakehead University. Those who have opted to work have been recruited by leading companies like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Bank Alfalah, United Bank Limited, Standard Chartered Bank, Deloitte, UK and Alghanim Industries (Kuwait). They are not only eager to turn this opportunity into a life changing experience for themselves, but are also keen on improving the conditions of their families and communities in the process.

LUMS’s NOP program is one way that Pakistanis are working to improve educational opportunities and preparing citizens across the country to address critical issues facing the nation. By helping students achieve their potential, the NOP program is helping Pakistan achieve its own potential.

Extremist Groups on Pakistan’s Campuses – Should Americans Worry?

University of Punjab students protesting against IJT

University of Punjab students protest against Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) and extremism on campus

The New York Times today reports a troubling story about the rise of extremism on college campuses in Pakistan. College campuses have long been home to twenty-somethings experimenting with radical thought. Even conservative commentator P.J. O’Rourke was a college Marxist in his day. But are Pakistan’s centers of education becoming incubators for extremist ideology and violence? There are many reasons to believe that, despite the Times story, the answer is no.

The Times story begins by noting that posters were plastered around the University of Punjab advertising an essay contest eulogizing Osama bin Laden. No sponsor was listed on the posters, and the only contact information given was an email address. No award ceremony was presented, and it is not known whether any students actually participated in the mysterious “contest.” All in all, not much of a story.

With little substance to the story of the mysterious flyers, the reporter shifts to a discussion of the student organization Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), a youth organization started in 1947 by Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi – founder of Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami political party.

The IJT is notorious for its conservative brand of Islam, and the violence with which it enforces its beliefs on college campuses. Though the group claims popular support, this is belied by the fact that the group is forced to resort to threats of violence against its fellow students.

As Salman Masood reports, IJT members in June beat a male student for sitting too close to a female colleague – an act they deemed un-Islamic. Despite IJT’s willingness to resort to violence, Pakistani students are standing up to IJT. After the incident in June, students held a demonstration against the IJT’s tactics. University administrators, too, are cracking down by expelling students involved in extremism.

Political extremism is a problem on college campuses across cultures, even in the US. In 2000, racist flyers were posted on the University of Texas campus twice in one month. In 2005, pro-Nazi flyers were distributed on campus at Central Michigan University. In 2009, Neo-Nazi posters were found at Bucknell University’s campus. While this is a problem, it is one that should be addressed in a way that recognizes the unique political environment of college campuses.

The intensity of student politics is amplified by the energy and passion of youth. As newly independent adults, campus activists often find themselves pushing boundaries and testing the limits of social acceptability. Whether or not IJT itself is complicit in promoting sympathy for a figure like Osama bin Laden, Americans should take heart from the fact that the views of IJT are still so unpopular that they must be enforced at gunpoint.

There are thousands of reasons to believe that Pakistan’s university campuses are not becoming hotbeds of extremism – each of those reasons is a moderate Pakistani student who rejects such ideologies. Rather than treating all Pakistani students as suspect because of the actions of a few misguided activists, those who support democracy and justice in Pakistan should support the moderate majority of students in Pakistan to ensure they are able to receive a quality education that they can take into the workforce to tackle the challenges facing their nation.

G8 Expresses Commitment to Pakistan

Following the G8 Summit of Deauville last week, the leaders of the world’s largest economies released a statement including the following expression of commitment to Pakistan.

We are committed to supporting Pakistan and re-emphasize the importance of Pakistan itself tackling its political, economic and social challenges by undertaking the urgently needed reforms supported by the international community. We acknowledge the crucial importance of education for the economic and social development of Pakistan. Our cooperation programmes will make getting more children into better schools a priority.

Earlier this year, Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari declared that education would be a top priority of his administration. Improving access to quality education for all Pakistanis is a fundamental step in solving Pakistan’s economic and security struggles. The G8’s commitment to the goal of improving access to quality education for all Pakistanis is an important step in making sure that President Zardari’s education priority can be realized.

My Questions, My Fears

Kay NeseemThe following submission by Kay Naseem presents an alternative perspective to the security-focused conventional wisdom about terrorism in Pakistan, and challenges us to consider the need for investment in the education and economic opportunity as a strategy to combating the lure of militancy for Pakistan’s youth.

Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice! As I feel grateful today for safety of many innocent people, I am still concerned about integrity of the institution he has left behind; scores of madrasas where thousands of little kids are taught wrong meaning of “Jihad.” The word comes from the Arabic word “Juhd” which means “effort.” The process of “Jihad” means exerting ones best effort (physically, intellectually and spiritually) to achieve a particular goal involving struggle or resistance. It does not imply war or violence. A working mom who is struggling to take her sick child to a doctor and puts her best effort to do so has done “Jihad.” A team of Rotarians who travelled across the ocean to rescue people from polio in India have done “Jihad.” A child collecting money for a poor family outside Wal-Mart has done “Jihad.” The true meaning of “Jihad” is not what is being taught to those little children in extremist madrasas. This is predatory, in many ways, as many children have no access to other sources of primary school education due to poverty, illiteracy and inequity.

Can the same tool of education that turns young children into suicide bombers be used to turn them into doctors, teachers, engineers, scientist and most of all peace makers? It is only the difference of what could be taught to them.

I grew up in Pakistan. I went to a school where we said a Bible prayer at assembly every morning. In fourth grade there was a Bible study class and an Islamic study class held simultaneously for students of the respective faith. Through this experience we developed appreciation and respect of each other’s culture and religion and we saw each other as human beings. We all played together on playgrounds and in each other’s homes. It all seemed so normal at that time.

As I reflect on world politics and terrorism, I wonder what the world would be like if every child in Pakistan was receiving the same integrated and privileged education I was receiving. Would things be different? Would there still be a prevalence of explosive devices in form of young children or adults? I want to say no.

That there are currently 70 million children around the world with no access to primary education makes me sad and afraid. I fear that the learning process of tolerance is being missed by all those70 million. If we deprive them the opportunity to learn, reason, and be productive member of the society, I fear we provide Al-Qaida, and other opportunists, a chance to use the desperation of these children to turn them into terrorists.

This is why programs such as the Education for All Act and Education for All- fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI), a global partnership of donors and developing countries working to ensure equal education for all, are critical. As a RESULTS grassroots activist, I believe EFA-FTI leads my organization’s goal in providing effective aid to promote equity in global education and my vision of recovery of a peaceful world. RESULTS believe that the most effective tool for improving global health and financial well being is through education. Poverty breeds disease and illiteracy. Has illiteracy and poverty contributed to terrorism? Can thousands of kids be saved from falling into the hands of terrorists through access to primary schools? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves while contemplating for our moneys sent abroad. Educating kids is certainly cheaper than sending soldiers and it ensures that healthy bodies and minds will be contributing to healthier peaceful societies. And peace abroad brings prospects of peace here at home.

Kay Neseem is a grassroots activist for RESULTS advocacy organization to fight against poverty and disease and enforce equal education internationally and domestically.

Educating Pakistan

Earlier this year, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared 2011 ‘the year of education’ in Pakistan. President Asif Ali Zardari called for “structural improvements in the funding, management and oversight of educational institutions.” As the US looks for ways to strengthen ties between our two countries, helping Pakistan improve its education system should be a top priority.

At the post-secondary level, Pakistan is currently faced with the task of exploring new ways to coordinate higher education policy. As a result of devolution requirements in the 18th Amendment passed unanimously by Pakistan’s National Assembly last year, the nation’s Higher Education Commission (HEC) is set to be dissolved.

Pakistani Senator Raza Rabbani (PPP) stated on Friday that the HEC would be replaced by a new federal agency, the Commission for Standard Higher Education that will continue funding universities and scholarships. As Pakistan’s higher education policy advances, the US Department of Education should provide important technical assistance through the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE) as it has successfully done in Europe and Brazil. As Pakistan shifts from a federally managed higher education system to one funded and managed by the provinces, American experience with successful state-run public colleges and universities.

But higher education is only a part of Pakistan’s education emergency. Over 60 percent of Pakistan’s population is under 25 years of age, and the youth literacy rate hovers at just over 50 percent for boys and just over 40 percent for girls. While Pakistan’s higher education policy is in flux, Pakistan’s primary education needs serious help.

Thankfully, there is good news. The US is investing $20 million to remake the classic children’s education program, Sesame Street.

“The idea is to prepare and inspire a child to go on the path of learning, and inspire the parents of the child to think that the child must be educated,” said Faizaan Peerzada, the chief operating officer at the Lahore-based Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, which was awarded the commission for the project in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American show. “This is a very serious business, the education of the children of Pakistan at a critical time.”

Similar projects been hugely successful in over 100 countries where the Sesame Street Workshop has worked with local media to develop and produce culturally relevant programs that concentrate on literacy and early childhood development.

Alam Simim (Egypt)

Sisimpur (Bangladesh)

This type of early childhood educational programming can have a huge impact on the lives and educations of Pakistan’s children. But we should not stop there. The US has the experience and expertise to help Pakistan modernize it’s educational system. Doing so would help ensure that Pakistan’s young population is able to meet the demands of tomorrow’s economy, and that Pakistan has the skills and expertise necessary to ensure its success in the future.

American decision makers often talk about winning the hearts and minds of our friends in Pakistan. But we’ll never win hearts if we ignore education.