Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif appreared at the Punjab University on Monday, at a ceremony at which The Nation Editor-in-Chief Majid Nizami, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Ch Ahsan Iqbal, vice chancellors of various universities and students were also present. He launched a distribution scheme of laptop computers among schoolchildren, in the province. The initiative is to see several thousand laptops distributed among talented students in government schools by March this year, with a further 300,000 laptops next year. The scheme is a worthy one, as computers are now a basic and vital familiarity in the landscape of daily use. Mian Shahbaz hopes to end poverty this way, and there is no doubt that the era in which our schoolchildren are to grow up, will be one in which computers are ubiquitous. The initiative is one which will provoke much thought, and among the questions arising is the cost of the project and how much of an impact it will have on the average school child in Punjab. With teacher standards and attendance at dismal levels, curriculums which are insufficient and unprepared for modern times, schools with corrupt enrolment practices, what has the government planned for these more basic, grassroot problems? Private schools are unregulated and springing up on every corner, while government schools pay teachers highly but get little effort in return.

There is great use in distributing computers, but the utility of a good basic education cannot be underestimated, and is needed to make use of the laptops. The same money if spent on correcting the curriculum and weeding out the undeserving from the education system, may be a better investment in our future. Government schools which lack even blackboards may not be the best place to teach computer skills, and they deserve to have their facilities completed if they are to impart the right education in future. It is not so much a matter of lower or higher standards, as of a completely different kind of education. Meanwhile, the Punjab government must not think that its giving its students laptops in any way absolves it of its responsibility towards students of private schools, or to provide government schools missing facilities. It must do so alongside the distribution of laptops - and on top priority. Over 50% of our uncontrolled population is under 20 years of age. The only security of Pakistan's future is in their education.