Saturday, 29 October 2011

Letter to my niece !!

Dear Aanya,

Since you have just stepped into this beautiful earth, it would be fruitful to tell you what you have already become  by virtue of your existence. (Aside from what you have made me - a chachu :) )

Arrived in this world, a tender, cute, adorable and pretty girl - endless adjectives can be used to describe your appearance. but this letter is not mere about appearance, it goes beyond; to 'what you are' and sometimes more important, 'what you are not'.

Gender: Female
Name: Aanya Pinjani (Origin of name: Gracious (Hebrew) Splendor, Brilliance (Irish))
Religion: Hindu
Language: Sindhi
Citizen: Canadian
Father: Pakistani
Mother: Indian

So what do these titles / affiliations represent?

Do these make you different from other nieces and daughters? If yes, how?

Are these differences apparent now or when is it that they will become apparent?

What type of upbringing or education will you receive from parents, grandparents, extended family, school and society that will ensure that you first accept these aforementioned identities and then preach them to others around you?

How 'what you are not' will make your perception about what 'you' or 'us' are, and what 'them' or 'others' are?

On a lighter note: will you support the Pakistani, Indian or Canadian team during the Cricket World Cup?

How you will conceive people from other religions; will you be able to distinguish between the individual and what that individual practices?

It is fortunate you are neither Pakistani nor Indian; at-least you have escaped one conflict. Not entirely though - will see how you manage not to take either side when India and Pakistan are battling on the cricket field - vis-a-vis your parents in front of the TV set.

Hopefully you will not fall victim to innumerable prejudices we are encircled by.

Hopefully, you will not simply term things as either good or bad, black or white, right or wrong.

Hopefully, thanks to your unique identity, you will be the seed that is sown to fill that vacuum that will help diminish those superficial distinctions that keep 'us' apart.

Darling !! Welcome into this complex yet humane world :)


Sunday, 9 October 2011

Trip to Shikarpur, post 2010 floods

I recently realised how the nature of power affects people in charge and incites them to deliver false hope to those in need.

After we had distributed all the ration packets, we decided to leave the camp. On my way home the internally displaced persons surrounded me once again.

They demanded from me to write their names on a piece of paper and sign it, so that they could receive a ration packet from the storage room.

This was the strategy we had enforced while distributing rations. However, at this moment my sign had no value since our stock had exhausted.

Regardless of my explanation, this mob was persistent in sharing their story of distress and pain, while concurrently demanding a paper with my signature. Most of them were women and children to whom explaining was akin to speaking to deaf people.

It was a hard day. I repeatedly questioned myself, whether we had distributed the ration equally or not. I was certain that all family heads had received their share and hence these women and children had been equally accounted for.

However, in such traumatic circumstances it is unimaginable to evaluate one`s deeds accurately. Though, I am at least content that I did not give them false hope.

In my view, what endangers them is not hunger or dearth of food, but the lack of an identity. They have always been dependent on others` ideology and are incapable of making decisions on their own.

This massive destruction of livelihood and infrastructure is, in my understanding, an opportunity for us (the privileged class) to set up a qualitative education plan for them so that they can be identified as a resource for our society and not a burden.

October 18th, 2010

Let’s free the Enslaved Beings!!

Witnessing the ever crumbling education system in Pakistan, it is time for us now to echo what our forefathers had once said to us … Beta ‘education’ is the real wealth (wisdom), never compromise on it!!

Our generation boastfully replies, ‘We have earned the wealth (paisa), thanks to our education!!’
From Plato to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, umpteen generations have reiterated the impact education has had on individuals and societies alike. It liberates our concealed powers which subsequently wander in quest of unraveling the secrets of life. However, today more than ever, I sense the grave necessity to refer back to the roots and inception of the notion of ‘education’.

The term education is derived from a Latin word ‘educere’ i.e. “bring out”, “bring forth what is within” and ducere, “to lead”. (B. L. Herrmann, 2010) This definition is quite simple yet exhaustive at the same time, upholding the core philosophy behind it that suggests: education is a means to reveal our inner talent and help us transform that into action. Additionally, it implies that education is a phenomenon that takes place at all stages of our lives and is not limited to one sphere or one particular time.

‘Education’ in our part of the world, is commonly perceived as a commodity that is necessary to derive a definite source of income. This perception is flawed. In essence, education is a process that every individual inevitably engages in throughout his/her life, unlike a product that can be measured or ascribed a monetary value. Even if a parent decides not to send thier child to school, it does not imply that the child will not be educated, but only it assures that he/she will be educated in a different way. Hence once we apprehend that education is not a matter of choice then only can we progess up the ladder and decipher the best way to educate our next generation.

An invaluable gift from God, ‘Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future’ (Quoted by John Fitzgerald Kennedy). This narrative is unequivocally embraced by all parents, yet, in today’s materially prosperous world such ethical principles are grotesquely disregarded. Looking at Pakistan alone, ‘over 3.8 million children of 5 – 14 age bracket are actively engaged in child labor. One should ask, ‘what does the future hold for these children, who spend their youth in slums, factories and brick kilns?’ (, 2010 – media gallery)

Twentieth century brought about a fundamental change in our society; notions of ‘industrialization’ and ‘laissez faire’ determined an unprecedented need for specialized and skilled labor (technicians). To this effort, a change in educational system was imperative, hence product curriculum was introduced. Often viewed as a technical exercise, this model entails a systematic and uniform cycle: objectives are set, a plan is drawn up and applied, and the resulting outcomes can be clearly measured.

Although superficially productive, this embodiment carries detrimental implications on one’s social development and enlightenment. In most of our (specific goal oriented) contemporary education institutions, students are repetitively prompted upon the necessity of choosing a specialization at an early age, often challenged with questions like, ‘where do you see yourself after five years?’ Such an encounter makes a student weary about his current standing and it forces him/her to secure an aim which can be ‘mechanistically measured’, rather than learning from the process of education and making it compatible to the ‘world of experimentation’ (Smith, 2000).

Adding fuel to fire, children are often inhibited from asking questions in the prevailing system and more so, they are punished to make sure that such defiant behavior is never repeated.

‘Curiosity’ is a natural instinct that stimulates and perturbs the human mind to oppose existing frameworks and engage in innovation as a desire to unravel the ulterior motives of life. This precious gift is eroding away and most of the modern education structures carry with themselves, preconceived notions of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and concurrently discourage students from engaging in critical thinking and questioning what they study. The urge to learn and question needs to be cultivated thoroughly in order to embark upon progress and to readdress the pedagogic standing of education.
Many of the adversaries of product model have argued in favor of the ‘process curriculum’ model. By analyzing the term ‘process’ itself, it can be inferred that this model weighs a substantial amount of emphasis regarding the ways in which education is carried out or transmitted from one body to another. Lawrence Stenhouse (1975) is one of the most prominent advocates of this model and suggests that,

Curriculum is rather like a recipe in cookery. A curriculum, like the recipe for a dish, is first imagined as a possibility, then the subject of experiment. The recipe offered publicly is in a sense a report on the experiment. Similarly, a curriculum should be grounded in practice. It is an attempt to describe the work observed in classrooms. Finally, within limits, a recipe can be varied according to taste, so can a curriculum.
(Stenhouse cited in Mednick, 2006; 3)

Aforementioned example outlines the fundamental feature of ‘process curriculum’: it is open to scrutiny and further experimentation. Additionally, it demonstrates the power of learning and knowledge transmition where students’ daily life experience is of essential value.

Another important concern in relation to education is that of talent; it is necessary to assert that every child encompasses a unique personna and passion. This recognition draws a major component for the relationship existing between a teacher and a student. Student personal development is a central challenge for any education policy. Hence, a change in the role of teacher is of utmost priority; teachers in this model are no more seen as merely the transmitter of information. Instead, it moves from the traditional lecture-based teaching to a new paradigm based on comprehension and non-rote learning, that respects different students’ learning paces, and nurtures distinct talent.

Although seemingly Platonic, this emancipatory exhibition of knowledge is practiced in our very globe. In Colombia like elsewhere, rural education is a challenge that has been ignored by their forefathers. To overcome this quandary a new approach was advocated by the ministry of education named, ‘Escuela Nueva’ (New School). One of the many instrumental ideas behind this education system was to build a secure bonding between the students and the community. An interesting example of this development can be noticed by highlighting a sequence of some simple activities embodied into the Escuela Nueva curriculum; ‘as part of the first workshop the teacher receives guidelines to prepare with the students - a ‘Community map’ that tags family names of each of the students. As a result of this process each of the students become an expert in map design and meaning’ (Schiefelbein, 199; 22). At the same time parents feel involved once they find their names on the community maps posted around the school.

Such invigorating exercises and powerful methods of teaching are lost in the contemporary education model, featuring stressed out students who are busy racing against time and experts at thinking globally but unable to relate to what is in their neighborhood.

It is extremely depressing to see our country struggling in almost all state of affairs. Educational reform I believe is a desperate need and can certainly become a defining element for our next generation to solidify their identity and build a lasting hope for a prosperous society.

If you imprison a monkey in a small cage, it will desperately try to unleash itself. But if you place a monkey in a barred piece of land and then very gradually bring close the barred edges while keeping the monkey busy with swings and bananas, the monkey will remain incognizant about the materializing danger.

• Herrmann, B. L. (2010) ‘Emerging Transformation’,
• Mednick, F. (2006) ‘Curriculum Theories’,
• Smith, M. K. (1996, 2000) ‘Curriculum theory and practice’ the encyclopaedia of informal education,

March 21, 2011