July 26, 2019 (Islamabad). Institute of Development Research and Corresponding Capabilities (IDRAC) and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) jointly launched a study report titled ‘Education and Inequality’ here at the Islamabad office of HRCP.
The study was conducted in 5 districts of Punjab namely Bahawalpur, Multan, Khanewal, Nankana Sahib and Gujranwala. The report described the state and instances of inequality and discriminatory attitudes that non-Muslims say Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and others go through in the class and school environment.
Speaking at the occasion, lead author Amjad Nazeer of IDRAC said that discrimination and inequality are a deeply entrenched in our society. Biases towards non-Muslims are initially developed at schools. Then media and society strengthens them further but once developed in childhood, become difficult to change later.
The report highlights that “an alarming 60pc of the non-Muslim students experienced discrimination directly or indirectly. Also, a substantial 70pc of the teachers perceive that they are treated unfairly on the basis of their faith. Similarly, 72pc of the parents report that their children are undermined or ill-treated in schools or colleges for not being Muslim.
Mr. Nazeer however, said, that the situation is definitely bad, though, not all that worse. He quoted that approximately 80pc of the affectees do not register a complaint against any form of non-discriminatory treatment against them. Wherever, someone filed a complaint for redressal, the authorities listened and did try to help. But in certain cases, the outside pressure was so high that their efforts went in vain.
Amjad Nazeer stressed that a serious effort is needed to change the mindset and behaviour of Muslim teachers and fellow students. In addition to the training, he stressed for teachers’ education and orientation towards multiculturalism, plurality, inclusiveness and tolerance.
He further said that discrimination may range from teachers’ attitudes to extra-curricular activities as well. Teachers and textbooks, somehow, label non-Muslim students as unpatriotic and inferior citizens, and rarely perceive them equal or even good citizens of Pakistan. In several cases, they are seen as enemies of Islam by Muslim people.
HRCP’s representative Nasreen Azhar was of the view that although the overall environment was not encouraging for minorities in the country, yet the government should pay heed to issues being faced by minorities.
Concluding Mr Nazeer said that the Islamic teaching should be consolidated in Islamic studies and to the teachers of Islamiat. Not ethics but non-Muslim students should equally given the right to study their own sacred textbooks. Knowledge of multi-culturalism, the region and the world should necessarily be imparted to the would-be teachers. Teaching ‘Comparative Religion and Worldviews’ to the students from secondary to the intermediate should be introduced. Teacher should be participatory and interactive and rather work as learner and researcher within the classroom. Most importantly, a teacher should be utterly impartial and non-discriminatory. Precisely objective, analytical and critical education be promoted in the arena of science and social science subjects. The report also recommends that there is a need to create a specialized mechanism to observe inequality and discrimination and be entitled to receive complaints cum grievances and extend apology or compensation where necessary. Where found, the institutionalized or structural discrimination against teachers be removed. This is how we can build a better Pakistan for ourselves and our children.