Education in Pakistan Isn't Helping War on Terror
Islamic terrorists are being churned out by religious schools at a rate faster than they can be neutralized by the war on terrorism. It is not Islam, but education, or the lack of it, which is attributing to this. That is the opinion expressed by Griff Witte in a recent Washington Post article.
Both U.S. and Pakistani officials acknowledge that Pakistan’s public education system has become a major obstacle to the U.S. efforts to overcome extremist groups. Large number of schools offer a curriculum that glorify violence in the name of Islam while they ignore basic history, science, and math lessons.
Islamic religious schools, known as madrassas, are often blamed as sources of recruitment by the militant groups; however, lifelong Pakistani educators contend that the problem is much deeper. The pathetic state of public schools and the lack of modernization of study materials are at the crux of the problem. The war on terror and indiscriminate civilian killings have encouraged many new madrassas to sprout in Pakistan, but they educate only about 1.5 million students a year, compared to 20 million or more by the public schools.
Many public schools are in appalling condition. They lack basic facilities such as electricity, running water, and bathrooms. More than 30 percent of students drop out by the fifth grade. The US is providing a large amount of cash to help Pakistani schools. Nonetheless, respected nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy commented, “I don’t think it’s a matter of money. The more you throw at the system, the faster it leaks out. There has to be a desire to improve. The U.S. can’t create that desire.”
There is immense institutional pressure in the country to keep the schools in their current form. Two powerful blocks of power in Pakistan are the army and the feudal class. They want to keep general people uneducated so that their vested interests are not challenged.
Khadim Hussain, a professor at Islamabad’s Bahria University, said, “If they make education available, the security establishment’s ideology may be at risk, the elite would be threatened.” He said this ideology encompasses the belief that non-Muslim nations want to destroy Pakistan and the army is people’s only savior. Those concepts are drilled hard at every level in the schools. The students are urged to memorize the names of Pakistan’s military heroes. They also utilize the prophet Muhammad’s sayings to influence people with their dogma.
The government of Pakistan will need more than money; a change of heart will go a long way.