by Parveen Roy
The importance of education (in its technical sense-characterized by formal schooling, measured by credentials and rate of literacy), throughout the life cycle is recognized and acknowledged by every individual in our society. Education is considered to be a critical element of human development and an essential instrument for fulfilling the multiple aspects of human rights such as civic participation. However, reaching the 90-95% literacy rate has not been able to help many of us (the literates of Gojal) sufficiently well because the formal education we get in our schools lack conscientization, which could empower us to take charge of the adverse situations around us. Many of us are conventionally literate but civically illiterate.
Those who have been to schools in Gojal (for that matter schools in Gilgit-Baltistan or in Pakistan) would agree with my observations that our education is limited merely to the acquisition of the rudiments of the letters and numbers. Our formal schools fail to take us beyond the levels of the 3Rs (i.e., reading, writing and arithmetic) and communication skills necessary for employment in the contemporary labor market. Hence, the social ills such as oppression, exploitation, political apathy, and partition, which education supposingly eradicates are still with us to a generous degree.
Civil illiteracy seems reasonable once we scrutinize the educational processes and the explicit and implicit codes of our schools to undermine the critical and liberating potentials of education. For example, in our daily school routine command is implied over participation, obedience is rewarded over disagreement, hierarchy is valued over equality, repression is encouraged over liberty, uniformity is appreciated over diversity, regurgitation is sought over creativity, and secrecy is respected over candor. We are made to view the world through a dominated discourse that conveys particular values, assumptions and expectations. This happens because the cluster that runs this country requires youth and citizens who can be manipulated. The cluster fears that civically-literate youth will become informed and involved citizens. If youth will start questioning and challenging issues and policies, the power and stability of established institutions will be threatened.
The disastrous situation arisen today in Gojal is neither a wrath of God nor a test of faith (as many of our schooled leaders are putting it). It is because we the citizens are not educated to question and challenge our policies, politicians and their practices. Such education leaves us (the so called literates) unable to make reasoned judgments and prepares us to give unthinking support to our favorite political parties and politicians. This phase of the disaster will soon be over and we will be required to rebuild our society. In the rebuilding process we should give it a thought to reform our school education. We need to incorporate conscientization as an essential part of our curriculum, which would take education from the narrow mechanistic confines to make it a liberating agent of transformation. Education would then become a liberational act that involves a radical resistance of dehumanizing and unjust social, economic and political conditions. Only then we will be in a better position to destruct the existing unjust structures and make our world a better place to live – the ultimate goal of education.
The contributor is a PhD student at AKU – IED.