We are thankful to different educators and contributors for pointing out the issues within our education policies, curriculum and corresponding syllabuses and textbooks. This particular image has been shared by an educationist who has requested to remain anonymous.
The image in consideration is from a chapter of a Social Studies textbook for grade V, produced by the government under the aegis of their respective provincial textbook authorities. This textbook has already been distributed to public schools and low-cost private schools across Pakistan. You will notice that the stated learning outcomes in the beginning of this chapter has sought a student to acquire knowledge on the historical role of our leaders and their constituencies in the movement for Pakistan. This lesson specifically required indigenous mentioning of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, and Pakistan’s women leaders as Begum Rana Liaqat Ali and Begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz. However, the introduction to the chapter–as you can see in the yellow box in this image–does not have any relevance to its own stated objectives.
The text in the yellow box begins by mentioning about the pre-Islamic era, where the failing and weak state administrations called for a social and moral reforms that Prophet Muhammad (May Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Him for all eternity) introduced during his time. This particular text implies that the same was needed for the Muslims of the subcontinent, who demanded a separate homeland. The socio-economic and political needs of Arabia during the 6th century and the struggles of the Prophet (May Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Him) to bring consensus and unity among people against tyranny deserves a detailed explanation as a chapter, but it would be more suitable for an Islamic History textbook. Embedding it within a chapter of compulsory Social Studies textbook where it is not even required as a learning objective has only conflated and confused its contextual significance, because the reasons for creation of Pakistan were different. The textbook writer seems to be oblivious to the fact that the movement for Pakistan was also supported by the leaders of other religious communities, because they suffered the the same political and economic marginalization as Muslims did. It was not because they wanted to convert or adhere to a completely different set of religious ethos.
It is also important that we point out the way this particular text has been written, where only one particular religious belief is glorified. It brings forth the dire need to sensitize our authors and the officials approving our textbooks on equal treatment of Pakistani children who do not belong to the dominant religious group. Also, there is a need for them to realize that a child should not be inculcated with a sense of superiority over non-Muslim peers. In fact, it would have been better if non-Muslim children were also able to read about their religious roots and practices with dignity and appreciation, instead of feeling powerless and humiliated while taking their compulsory lessons at school.
There is a need to review the content of all existing textbooks under the 6-part threshold for hate-speech (i.e. context of the statement; speaker’s status; intent; content and form of the statement; extent of dissemination; and the likelihood of harm) as defined under the Rabat Plan of Action. Most importantly, it becomes a matter of our citizen responsibility to remind the state of its duty to protect and preserve the rights our minorities, especially under Article 22 (1) of Pakistan’s constitution when it comes to education. No one should be allowed to violate the dignity of a Pakistani citizen at our educational institutions, no matter what religious or ethnic background he/she belongs to.
The purpose of this article is not to ridicule the sincere efforts of the government to end apartheid in our education systems, but to appeal to them to also take into account the empathetic considerations during curriculum and textbook development processes so our children can hold on close to the values of equality and dignity of others.