By Adil Khan
In ‘HEC — stormy time is up ahead’, Pervez Hoodbhoy concludes: ‘Banuri-Rahman dispute must be seized as an opportunity for a wider discussion on what ails Pakistan’s university system and how to fix it.’ In response, Dr Rahman himself steps up, with some patriotism: ‘There is no better way to destroy a country than to destroy its education systems’, a consequence he anticipates in what Dr Anjum Altaf has phrased ‘Banuri vision’— HEC’s recent emphasis on undergraduate teaching. Dr Anjum is ‘partial to Banuri vision’, with a further dig-down to High school education, however, not very much in contradiction with what Dr Rahman believed had plunged India in an envy-catastrophe. However, I believe that these scholars have only spotted the tip of the iceberg; the issue is more deep-rooted and needs analysis from a wider angle.
The ‘what ails’ and ‘how to fix it’ in Hoodbhoy’s opportunistic invitation to debate education contain more significance than anything else he has to present. In contrast, Dr Rahman and Dr Banuri are entirely concerned with ‘what benefits’ and ‘how to improve it’. Hoodbhoy has ticked some of the now-obvious causes, but what interests me is Dr Anjum’s Titanic metaphor: ‘Tinkering with higher education is like rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic quite oblivious to the gaping hole in the bottom taking in water at an exponentially increasing rate.’ Dr Anjum’s immediate reference is to a system ‘politicised as to be virtually impervious to reform’ (Titanic’s ‘gaping hole in the bottom’). But politics is not the only cause. The ‘what ails’ is lurking everywhere, sweeping across the country, gathering speed and momentum as it moves, like distant galaxies in the infinite bounds of the universe. It can only be seen in forms which are not what it is; it does not have one body, one existence; it is an ever-changing apparition, a ghostly appearance, a changing shape, defying dissection, examination, analysis. The only thing which gives it birth is the mind of man and it grows to omnipotence in appropriate conditions. We can not be contraceptive to its birth but we can alter the conditions on which it thrives. Therefore, the first thing we need to do is to forget about our preference for undergraduate teaching or research production and start a ‘sapping and mining operation’ on the ‘weather’.
One shape of ‘what ails’ is the the nation’s prostituting character giving way to an influence-complex. This horrible disease has made its way in the mind of every individual of this nation. To achieve what it dictates, every individual of the nation sets out to its pursuit in every possible way: the young aspiring students by ‘mental masturbation’ (a system of education where factual learning is more important than analytical), the smart and cunning by mastering disguise, pretension, buffoonery, with a suit and a tie and a pair of boots. What they want is very complicated. The consciousness of bank-numbers is almost a cliché in this context but I know many illiterate millionaires in my own area who have sent their children to college and university. It is not that they do not feel the irritation of a money-complex, they surely do, but they want something more than that or else their children would easily follow their path. In my belief, what they want is a cultural mindset of attracting people, is being talked about everywhere, seen everywhere, followed everywhere, believed in everything.
So where is the connection between an education debate and what I have said so far? It is this: The mind of the teacher is affected by the mind of culture, conscious of its incapability of fulfilling what the influence-complex dictates or what the mind of culture demands. The reason of this unfortunate circumstance is too deep rooted to be dug out in a single shot, but most precisely it loves predominance instead of preeminence, domination instead of benevolence, authority instead of service — the character of prostitution — by controlling the executive wheel of the nation and therefore its resources. A teacher can not do any of these except contracting a diseased mind — another attribute of prostitution. Therefore, to compensate this loss he/she runs after a ‘higher degree’, publish more and more research and let these things act like a soothing balm on his/her diseased mind. But treatment of a disease is different from well-being and there is no cure for prostitution, therefore the mind of the teacher never achieves a will to make a difference but a will to appear different or equal and let the people around you see you, talk about you, believe in you, and follow you, with a post-doctorate and eighty two publications. For all this, no one is to blame. Neither the teacher/researcher, nor the education institution, nor HEC’s policies. The ‘weather’ is to blame. Truth, value, sincerity are homeless, exposed to torrential rains, freezing cold, scorching heat, begging in the street.
Any ‘how to fix it’ needs to be a mind operation, a cultural endeavor, a ‘say no’ to prostitution. This includes treatment of the diseased minds, therefore the mind of culture can be vaccinated to its wide spread corruption. This is no easy task; it can take decades, even centuries; but this is the only way to save the future generations, if those generations are to be saved in anyway. Research grants or intensive undergrad teaching or both are useless when the most cherished belief of the mind of culture is prostituting its way into prominence. What teaching is more effective than what you see around you; what education is more real than the education of the mind of culture?
Adil Khan is a Lecturer of English at University of Turbat