students’ corner

Covid-19 remains to be a massive problem for many countries around the world but as their governments scramble to eliminate the virus, Pakistan looks towards erasing any memory that ever existed by completely lifting all restrictions including the reopening of schools and educational institutions. 

In the past few weeks, with the end of the lockdown on the horizon, the Twitter account of Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood has been a source of anxiety for many Pakistani teenagers as the government looks towards opening of schools in a post-Covid era. And while opening schools is indeed very important, it perhaps just a little more important to reflect on the situation properly and ask those who it affects the most. That is us, the students.

Late president Gen. Zia ul Haq spelt disaster for student politics and ever since his rule way back in the 1980s, student leadership never recovered. 

The students of Pakistan are mostly completely ignored when it comes to government policies, and during the pandemic this could not have been clearer as most students’ concerns were not addressed by the government or their respective institutes. Pakistani students were left at the mercy of the Cambridge Board in England and all we could do was hope for the best.

Even the few times the government did respond to us was only in the aftermath of large Twitter and Social Media Campaigns. And this problem even existed before Covid-19. The absence of student politics in the country has resulted in some very questionable decisions being made by the government, and educational institutions; whether it be changing the curriculum or revising new dates, we the students have had no voice or input in the matter.

Universities of Pakistan are primarily motivated by money and it shows. All over the country while thousands of people could not go to work and many had to use up their savings just to feed their families, the educational institutes of our nation thought it was admissible to start “Online Classes”, and then charge a fee for them without ever thinking about the teachers or more importantly, the students.

In the end, it took a Twitter movement for the government to even recognise these issues and discuss possible solutions. The fact of the matter is that these problems should have never existed in the first place, with the condition of the internet in Pakistan and the lack of proper facilities, online classes were a far cry from the realm of possibility. What did not work for Harvard University was never going to work for Pakistani Colleges but nevertheless they persisted in the wake of money.

All over Pakistan not a single college thought that it was important to contact the student body and how they feel about the reopening of the schools, to them as long the student body pays their dues and the government gives a green flag, it is ok; regardless of any other circumstances. What perhaps these rapacious institutions need to realize is that we the students are not incapable of making our own decisions and we need to be part of decision making. 

We live in an era of hyper competitive education in Pakistan where we are led to believe that the only way to succeed is to get an average of 95% or fill your report card with A-asterisks. During this, perhaps we forget that all of this is essentially meaningless if one is not in a stable or happy environment or is not healthy. It really makes no difference if a student completes their A Levels this year or the next. 

As a student I can foresee the government that the SOPs advised will not be followed for more than a week in schools. And while I hope for a smooth reopening so that the lives of people in the country can somewhat normalize, one cannot help but wonder whether the haste in decisions regarding the reopening of schools is really out of concern for our education or just a ploy to make as much money as possible motivated by capitalist morals or rather lack thereof.