Student unions should be revived to address on-campus radicalism: Experts
ISLAMABAD – Majority of the speakers at a consultation called for revival of student unions, with certain regulations, in the educational institutions of the country to discourage prevalent religious and ethnic radicalism at the campuses.
The experts also said that the government should adopt student-centric policies that promote critical thinking and healthy intellectual discourse among them to bring productive youth out of educational campuses.
Lawmakers, academicians, religious scholars, students, journalists, human rights activists, and representatives of civil society participated in the consultation on “Promoting Narratives of Diversity, Inclusion, and Peace among Youth” organised by Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).
The panellists were of the view that youth in Pakistan figure poorly on state’s policies and urged the need to end violence at campuses by educating youth about citizenship, democracy, and Constitution, and promoting open debate among them.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) Romina Khurshid Alam speaking at a session said that citizenship should be taught at school level. “I believe in the concept of social cohesion,” she said and added, “Constitution gives equal rights to every citizen.” She further said that even the concept of minorities was an expression of social dissection.
SAPM Romina said that the teacher training was the basic thing which was missing in their education system. Senator Walid Iqbal, Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights, regretted that the present electoral system in the country discouraged new political entrants and limited political representations only through dynasties and patronage. He underlined that the political parties should award tickets to youth and new entrants. Stressing the need to revive student unions, Senator Walid quoted a past resolution of the Senate Committee of the Whole which had called for an end to the ban on student unions.
Member of National Assembly Saira Bano said that Pakistani youth were confused and there was a need to develop a sense of confidence among them. She suggested that the students should be taught and trained in such a way that they could decide about their future on their own.
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, physicist and educationist, emphasised on the need to revive student unions to encourage healthy intellectual discourse among youth and to protect students from violent politics on the basis of religion and ethnicity. He also called for reviewing the present curriculum saying, “this leads the students to violence.” He urged the need to teach students citizenship, and promote critical thinking among them saying this was the only way to improve the atmosphere of campuses. “Let universities be free for open debate.”
Vice Chancellor (VC) Quaid-i-Azam University Dr. Muhammad Ali also proposed revision of curriculum in line with current challenges. “Our curriculum is not based on a student-centric approach,” he said. He said that the Parliament and state institutions should form such policies that allow universities to form their own curriculum as well as administrative policies.
Dr. Naazir Mahmood, educationist and columnist, deplored that violent behaviours of the state have been transmitted into the society. He said that the state has been endorsing a typical narrative in which warriors were idolized while the alternative narrative was crushed.
Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Dr. Qibla Ayaz said that they would have to form a policy at state-level to overcome all problems related to youth. He also said that there were no “pleasant memories” of student unions in the past.
Former VC University of Sargodha Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmad supported the idea of revival of student unions saying that the ban on them has promoted ethnicity at campuses. Khursheed Ahmed Nadeem, scholar and columnist, had a different view and said that political parties had no right to form their own wings among students and use them for political purposes.
Director PIPS Muhammad Amir Rana in his opening remarks pointed out the growing internal politics among educators and administrators at campuses but limited space for students to express their views.