The intense environment of fear in our society, based on self-fulfilling prophecies and perceived threats from imagined enemies, has now reached our educational institutions. This fear of the anonymous is spreading everywhere, creating a dystopian reality into which we are hurled and controlled like hordes (primitive sense).
On one hand, the hyper-insecurity has resulted in a void within the students’ interactions, by creating trust deficit, and on the other the dominant ideology has used it to produce conformists among students. Educational institutions had promised of giving a safe space for critical thinking and contributing new knowledge to the existing one, but sadly we now realize that the promise was grounded in falsehood. In classrooms student deviating from mainstream discourse are snubbed; majority of the professors have become the unquestionable authority. Outside classrooms, sitting in clusters and having educational discussion receives suspicious looks, as if some conspiracy is being plotted. Against whom? Nobody has the answer. But the suspicion persists.
Even if the topics are disputed, why they should not be discussed in campuses? If not in campuses, then where, will such discussions be held? And of what good use are we studying in universities, who constitute 1% of the total population over matriculation, but still cannot have a dialogue or conversation on these topics, in a decent manner?
Given the fact that this minimal number of people (1%) are the would-be intelligentsia of the society, it is very unfortunate that these intellectual elites are forcefully kept aloof from the gross realities which after all they would not only encounter but would need to resolve.
The other conspicuous discrepancy noticed in campuses is students being denied their right to unionize around common issues and speak for their immediate concerns, like increasing tuition fees, incapable faculty members, mess issues, and other day to day issues affecting the lives of thousands of students.
It is very depressing to recognize that from the time of Zia’s dictatorship, with the ban on student unions (except a few), even the fundamental right to demand due rights has been denied to the students. However, different offices were enacted to deal with students’ problems. These offices were supposed to be replacements for the banned students union, but over the period of time, their inefficiency has made them defunct. Instead of regulating the violence-prone student unions, using it as a justification to snatch the constitutional right from students is a criminal act. As the state is duty bound to provide basic rights to the citizens, a part of this gap also indicates the failure and inability of the state apparatus.
In the pretext of decaying socio-economic and political conditions of the country, the role of students has become pertinent, especially in their contributions to the society. Currently, we are experiencing a time where students fear each other, administration fears students, students fear faculty and the man at security gate fears everyone. The monotony of fear and insecurity has already obscured the true potential of students, overcoming which requires some serious and bold steps; beginning with a leap of faith and extending a friendship hand to those who until now were our enemies, perceived or real. We need to trust each other, lest we lose ourselves in deep dark dungeons of isolation and seclusion.
The contributor is a student of political sciences at GC University, Lahore.