There is a band of killers loose in Pakistan - killers so deadly that they have already destroyed a generation of Pakistanis. This band is nurtured by corruption, greed, apathy and what can only be termed as a systematic programme to destroy the 'land of the pure. Members of this group are masters of disguise for they present themselves as the guardians of a noble profession, but their victims are the future of this country - our children. These are the men and women, who sit at the helm of our education system. The education system in Pakistan, if it can be called a system, is splitting the nation apart, instead of integrating it. This widening chasm divides those, who go to government schools, most of which are nothing, but a cruel joke and others who attend expensive and elite private school systems. To make the situation more complicated, these private sector schools are again split into two categories - the reputable ones, who in spite of their flaws, maintain standards and those that bear a faade of respectability, while in reality they neither possess the necessary environment nor teacher quality to impart good education. I once had an opportunity to visit a friend, who lived in a small town near Faisalabad and was awakened next morning by a commotion under my bedroom window, which overlooked the courtyard of a government school. I saw a man sitting on a chair - eyes closed in ecstasy, as two children vigorously massaged his head. The remainder of his students sat on the ground before him, swaying forward and backwards chanting a single word from a basic Urdu textbook. Unable to control myself, I opened the window and in chaste Punjabi told the rascal what I thought of him. Needless to say that the class disappeared from that spot, to what may have been a better part of the compound, away from my prying eyes. This is just one story, the likes of which are repeated across the country. There was once a time when a group of pink-skinned spinsters lived in a red brick building in Lahore. These women were thousands of miles from their island home, but happy in the knowledge that they were doing something worthwhile - teaching young children to become useful citizens. They were unyielding in principles, yet kind and caring; punctual to the second; rich in knowledge and passionate to share it with the likes of us, and, above all, they were mentors and role models to perfection. We were in a formative age then and could have been easily moulded to be more sahib than the sahib himself, but no - this unforgettable band of women taught us to love our country, respect its laws and give our best to it. Punctuality, integrity, discipline, and, above all, humility were the core attributes instilled in us, besides knowledge. Clocks could be set by their unerring arrival in class and tuition was a concept that was unthinkable and despised. Then an evil descended upon us, education became a private sector industry and a source of getting rich. Dissemination of knowledge in classrooms was replaced by tuition and teachers lost their calling as good role models. In a recent case, one of these individuals from a high class and reputed private school made a fictitious back dated entry in the school diary of a student, to cover her oversight and justify the penalty on the child for not doing his homework. This individual not only committed forgery, but encouraged her students to grow up with a gross weakness in character. I remember that the veritable 'jewel in the crown in my alma mater was its library. This was a 'no-cost-free-access facility run by a person, who would often be seen sitting behind her desk well after the official closing hours, just because some student or the other was inside, busy in locating the right book. In stark contrast today, another private school with a big name disallows its students to use its library facility, unless a hefty amount is deposited in its coffers. These private institutions are in a race to produce straight 'As without realising that they are doing irreparable damage to the system and creating unimaginable stresses on both students and parents. Teachers in these institutions are reluctant to deliver honestly in class; for by doing so they would close the opportunity of teaching their students at home and make more money. I would rather if they could produce one hundred percent average students with sterling character qualities and a true understanding of the meaning and spirit of knowledge. There appears to be little realisation that the bulk of Pakistanis cannot afford to send their children to private institutions and, therefore, have to rely on government schools. So, it is imperative that ruthless reformation of these schools, their teachers and method of instruction is carried out without more ado, before we plunge deeper into darkness and anarchy. There is also need to carry out an 'audit of private schools and root out the black sheep from amongst them. All that the citizens of Pakistan want is a system that produces literate, intelligent and honest citizens, and the longer we wait doing nothing, the faster we shall recede into oblivion. The writer is a freelance columnist.