Mashal Khan was brutally murdered by his fellow students in Mardan University. Naureen Leghari, a medical student, received militant training in Syria and joined the militant IS group. Politically influential people killed twin brothers in Sialkot. An angry mob torched a cathedral near Faisalabad. Drugs are recovered from college and university students.
Isn’t this all alarming? How much more evidence do our decision makers need to understand that there is something drastically wrong with our education system which promotes debate not dialogue, rote learning not reasoning, extremism not tolerance, grades not life skills.
Most of the constructive and healthy activities like sports and student union elections have been banned in education institutions, giving way to extremism, intolerance and social vices.
Sport was a permanent component of the British education system inherited by Pakistan. It was only the strong sports presence in the education system that produced a number of international athletes who represented Pakistan in Olympics and world games and won many laurels.
Sports in education system not only produced athletes of international standard but also helped in developing wonderful personalities with great qualities of head and heart. In the recent past, education institutions used to present a festive and healthy environment. Sports and other co-curricular activities were instrumental in carving the character of students, and life skills were produced and developed in a subtle manner.
Life skill development through sports has now become a science.
For the past few years, freedom of speech has become licentious in our society. There are now religious decrees about others’ faith and their qualification to be Muslim. Fatwas are delivered calling each other infidels, atheist and non-believers. This state never existed in past when Muslims, Christians and non-believers used to play on thriving playfields.
With multiple and confused education systems thriving unchecked in a rudderless society, we are producing either highly in-disciplined, physically unfit, fast food-eating young people who remain awake throughout the night chatting on cell phones or a class which is extremist, violent, confused and unwilling to accept any fresh idea or discuss complex issues.
It is very unfortunate that our physical education curriculum is outdated and the resource persons employed in this field are naive and clueless about the developments in sports sociology, sports sciences and sports for development.
There are a number of sport education and sport development programmes, which if incorporated in education system at appropriate levels, can bring behavioural changes in the youth and develop tolerance and empathy.
One such program offered by a renowned Sport for Development organisation is “R-C-A” or Reflect, Connect & Apply, where different characteristics like leadership, team work, tolerance, communications and discipline are developed in limited space through colored ball philosophies. These, practised at early age, get imprinted in the subconscious.
Pakistan’s future generation stands at a tipping point. The country needs to develop avenues to realise its demographic dividend. The youth is estimated to make up nearly half of our 300 million population by 2050. But at the same time, Pakistan’s performance in achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) over the past 17 years has remained unsatisfactory, as the country only partially achieved eight MDGs.
The Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform revealed that during the current financial year Rs473 billion has been spent on achieving MDGs but its result on ground seems negligible. Using sports as a cross-cutting tool for achieving MDGs and STGs is a highly specialised area, which seems a far cry with the understanding of the subject by sports bodies and other organisations in the country.
The recent match fixing episode in Pakistan Super League is another reflection of poor life skills possessed by our sportsperson who lack discipline, tolerance and other virtues that make a sportsperson a refined human being who has empathy for his colleagues, respect for the sentiments of viewers and who holds national image above everything else.
I am afraid that poor policy decisions by military leaders like Zia-ul-Haq to separate sports from education have created social monsters. Our education institutions are not producing sportsperson but extremists.
I urge all leading sportsmen of the country to unite on one page, not to win coveted positions in sports bodies and associations but to pressurise the government to generously allocate finances for developing and promoting sports in education institutions, so that a culture for healthy sports activities is developed and important social virtues are inculcated in the youth.