Compassion in Education

Education is the process of learning and is the basic right of every individual. It makes a nation strong, plays an essential role in the progress of a nation and is responsible for its advancement towards success. It is the most important aspect of any nation’s survival today as it builds a nation and determines its future. Islam also tells us about education and its importance.

The education system in Pakistan is divided in three stages: primary, secondary and tertiary. Each of them has a huge impact on the lives of the students and the country.

First we have the primary education system in Pakistan is inspired from the British system which starts from nursery and ends at 8th grade. The curriculum is subject to institution and usually varies in each institution.

Next, we have the secondary system which starts from 9th grade and last for four five years depending on the examining body. It can either be Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education’s (local) Secondary and Higher Secondary School Certificates (SSC and HSC), Cambridge International Examination’s (British) Ordinary and Advanced levels (O-level and A-level) or North American Examination Board’s Advanced Placement depending on the parent’s financial stability.

Similarly, we have the tertiary or university level of education which awards a bachelor’s or master’s degree in your field on interest after completed four or five years of education in that discipline, but everyone is not so lucky as only 6% of Pakistanis(9% males and 3.5% females) are university graduates.

The government of Pakistan is bound by the constitution of Pakistan to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age group 5 to 16 years. Here is where the main problem lies as we all are familiar with the stories of corruption in the government offices and organizations. Their greed for money and power don’t come off as breaking news to us yet we vote for them but that’s a topic for another time.

Only 2% of the GDP is allotted to the educational budget and even from this amount most is spent on the ghost schools (schools which exist only on paper) or in other words goes in the pockets of the people we “elected” as a result of which the literacy rate of Pakistan is only 60%(including the people who can write only their names). Due to the shortage of quality education the private sector had to step in to provide education to the Pakistani “awaam” (public) because no one will miss such a huge business opportunity.

Private sector schools have the best facilities and education curriculum as most of them follow the British GCE system. Nothing is free in this world applies to these “businesses” as the monthly fee of these schools start from PKR 5,000 which is more than the monthly income of most families in Pakistan. They can’t afford to send their children to these schools neither can they send their children to government schools which exist just on paper. Due to the growing inflation these lanterns are extinguished before being properly lit and sent to earn the basic necessities for their families.

The government schools and colleges that do exist have poor equipment, shortage or poor quality of teachers, outdated curriculum which is being followed since the 80’s, cheating in exams and overcrowded classrooms.

Apart from low educational funds, corruption, poverty, deprivation of quality education and inequality between public and private education sectors the problems our country’s education system is facing are gender and regional disparity.

Schools in Punjab are far more developed and up to date in all aspects compared to the schools in Baluchistan due to different educational boards, allotment of funds, awareness and provincial governments’ reforms to promote education in their respective provinces.

Apart from that, we have the issue of gender disparity which is the major problem in Pakistan. It is too dominant in the poor households of Pakistan due to which only 18% of the women have had 10 or more years of schooling. To this already low number of educated women a nuclear bomb was dropped in the form of Taliban who imposed a complete ban on women’s education in northern areas of Pakistan. 400 schools providing education to more than 40,000 girls were shutdown and 10 schools were blown which did not adhere to the deadline.

The private schools aren’t perfect and have some major flaws unlike the public school system these problems aren’t administrative. Parents enroll their children to popular and expensive private schools for social status so that they can boast about it. Instead of becoming a beacon for enlightenment and providing quality education to turn their students into better human beings schools are more concerned with upgrading their social lives. The difference between these students and the illiterate people is just that they can read and write. Apart from that they even use the same language and lack courteousness, tolerance and compassion.

The education system of Pakistan is almost non-existent and has so many issues but when there is a problem there is always a bunch of solutions to solve it.

First and foremost the education budget should be increased from 2% of the GDP to 7%. Instead of spending almost all of the money on military expenditures we should concentrate on developing the country and boosting the economy through a larger number of educated people. Only increasing the funding won’t lead towards effectiveness, a proper check and balance system must be adopted to prevent the leaking of these funds from the future of Pakistan to the pockets of our “leaders.”

It is ironic that even after 67 years of independence we are controlled by the British, not physically but mentally as we are following their system of education and paying huge amounts of money for that. Instead of developing our own system we welcome CIE to conduct exams in our country and give it more importance than our system. It is a fact that it is far better than our education system but that’s just because of our inability to produce one. We have great thinkers and highly educated people in our country we can utilize their expertise and work out an extraordinary syllabus. Hence, we’ll have a better education system.

Consequently, a uniform curriculum should be maintained throughout the country and the gap between public and private schooling systems should be eliminated. There is discrimination that private school students are more capable and knowledgeable than the public school students which is true due to the lack of resources in public institutions. After the same curriculum and educational system is followed that issue will also be resolved and the both the rich and the poor will have the same standard of education.

After all the above things are done we’ll have an issue of the shortage of trained teachers as there are not much incentives and fringe benefits to attract the educated youth in this sector. This could be fixed by increasing their salaries, teacher training workshops and making it compulsory for all the university students to teach for at least a year or two to get their degrees or graduate.

As for the women, education is not provided to them because of this false Islamic ideology fed into the people due to lack of understanding of religion that women shouldn’t step outside of homes, they aren’t the bread winners and are made to bear children and look after them. To increase the number of educated women more educational institutes should be set up, a campaign to spread awareness among the people for the importance of women’s education should be started and they should be told that Islam treats both men and women equally and orders both of them to get education.

The lingering issue of “educated illiterates” is far more severe than having illiterate people. Schools’ responsibilities are not limited to just teach the syllabus, their main focus should be to make them a better human being. This can be done by training them to be tolerant towards each other, show courtesy, be empathetic, forgiving and compassionate towards their fellows. In order for them to follow these rules the teachers and parents will themselves have to practice them. Here, we can bring in NGO’s like charter for compassion to train the parents, teachers and the students for the betterment of the society.

These are just basic reforms, not rocket science which is too difficult to understand. We are a country with NUCLEAR ARSENAL yet we lack behind from the rest of the world in terms of education. Education in Pakistan just needs to be taken seriously by the government. They should focus on the future, that is to resolve issues by the use of pen and dialogue rather than sword, that’s why military budgets should be decreased and that amount invested in education. More educated Pakistan will be more prosperous Pakistan.

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Politics & Compassion

Since 1947 Pakistan has always been in a state of political turmoil. The last government (PPP) was the only democratic government to complete its tenure and handover the power to the new government (PML-N) “elected” by the people. Although, it was claimed that these elections were the most free and fair elections conducted in Pakistan, there was a controversy mainly due to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) claims that the elections were rigged.

Imran Khan and his supporters believed that these elections were rigged and demanded a judicial committee to be set up but the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ignored their claims and didn’t consider PTI to be a serious threat. In response of being avoided for more than a year Imran Khan called for a march to the capital.

On the other hand, Pakistan Awaami Tehreek’s (PAT) leader Tahir-ul-Qadri was upset with the model town incident in which several PAT workers were killed and injured by the police. He also led a march to the capital to demand a FIR against the corrupt government officials and Chief Minister Punjab – Shahbaz Sharif who ordered these killings.

Similarly, the people who took part in these marches and rallies apart from the party workers were the civilians who were discontented with the PML-N government due to its inability to prevent violence, abuse, social and religious intolerance, power surges and inflation.

Nawaz Sharif ordered roadblocks and containers to be placed on entry routes to prevent the protestors from coming into the “red-zone.” The protestors halted just before the red-zone and carried on with their peaceful demonstrations. Protests were carried out in different parts of the country including Karachi.

PTI was demanding the PM’s resignation and a caretaker government to be set up until the re-elections. There were traffic and security concerns due to the roadblocks and protests in the country but the people who weren’t participating in this political melodrama kept calm as they knew somewhere in their hearts that it’s being done for the betterment of Pakistan.

Imran Khan’s deadlines kept shifting to later dates every day and no consensus with the government or any kind of result achieved which was acceptable to PTI. Even though the government offered to set up a judicial committee to look into the matters of rigging and conduct re-elections carried out once its report confirms the rigging allegation, it was unacceptable to PTI and they wanted Nawaz’s resignation. A diplomatic deadlock was reached.

But all hell broke loose when the protestors armed with wooden clubs tried to force their way into the red-zone and the prime-minister house. The police responded by “attacking” the protestors with batons, rubber bullets and tear gas injuring more than 400 people. The next day Pakistan Television Corporation’s (PTV) office was attacked and taken under siege which forced the military to take action and the building was reclaimed peacefully.

PTI and PAT are still protesting against the government by their sit-ins on the D-Chowk which has caused the country a loss of more than Rs. 1000billion. These politicians continue their fight for the “kursi” while the Pakistani Army is waging an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban militants and many areas of Punjab are destroyed due to floods.

All the major stake holders whether it’s Imran Khan who is afraid of not gathering any seats in 2018 elections once this government completes its term, Tahir-ul-Qadri the Canadian resident who comes once in a while to spread insurgencies in Pakistan or Nawaz Sharif who is glued to his seat and is in love with his position and power lack empathy and compassion for the people of Pakistan except the Leader of MQM Altaf Hussain and his party who are willing to give away their seats just so that this problem is resolved even though he was accused of murder and other offenses by Imran Khan. Even during the protests carried out in Karachi security was provided by the workers of MQM and they prevented mishaps or any kind of problems in these demonstrations.

In my opinion Imran Khan should call off these protests and accept the government’s proposal for the JC to look into the matter of rigging, so that full attention could be given and necessary measures could be taken to help the flood victims and restore their villages to get their lives back on track. Instead of scoring points against one another these parties should refrain from using harsh words against one another, be empathetic to each other, discuss their grievances, listen and resolve their issues with a neutral mediator like MQM, PPP or a council consisting of members from different parties. At this stage our country needs to focus on helping the flood victims and IDPs rather than creating more issues.

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Why Karachi Needs Compassion

Karachi is a city. A city is made up of humans. Karachi is human. A human filled with passion, desire, hope, drive and courage. Yet Karachi is in constant chaos. It is slowly seeping into chronic depression. Each sunrise brings with itself a new set of horror stories. Karachi, the city of lights, is now synonymous with danger, extortions, target killings and so on. With each passing day, Karachi suffers deeply. The city is undergoing all this turmoil and; needs to be hugged tightly, not pushed away. Karachi needs compassion.

The Oxford dictionary, describes compassion as a ‘sympathetic feeling and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others’. But compassion is so much more. To be compassionate is to be courageous, empathetic, forgiving, humble and filled with gratitude. It is to be patient and loving. It is to understand that everyone is equally important in the grander scheme of things and needs to be treated the same way.

Karachi needs to stop labeling. Karachi is not Shia, Sunni, Pathan, Muhajir, Sindhi, rich, poor and so on. Karachi needs to learn to live with diversity. It needs to accept everyone as humans and not differentiate between who is more pious or who is whiter or who is richer. It needs to recognize all as equal individuals and not have labels divided and arranged in a pyramid with some on top for being better than the rest. Karachi needs to be humble.

Karachi is one city. The difference between this side of the bridge and that side of the bridge should not exist. If in one city there is a Lyari which is a ‘no zone’ and there is Defense which is ‘the zone’ than Karachi needs to reevaluate its humanity. It needs to work hard to make Lyari and Defense the same and that does not happen by just painting Lyari or building a shopping mall in it. It happens by invoking empathy into the people who make Karachi. It happens by making the child and adult from ‘the zone’ understand that no one from the ‘no zone’ is beneath them or less than them in any matter. It happens by making ‘the zone’ join hands with ‘no zone’ and work together to mobilize the ‘no zone’ into ‘the zone’. Karachi needs to be empathetic.

Karachi is stuck in a vicious cycle of violence and revenge. It is stuck in the past where someone was harmed and revenge becomes the word of the day for a week or so, every few months during the year. Tomorrow could be another day for revenge, but it does not have to be. In this cycle of revenge the city will burn and come to a halt. Schools and windows will be shut down, roads and streets will be empty and people will silently huddle around the television waiting to see how much the city will burn this time. Karachi needs to be forgiving.

Karachi is not a city for people anymore. It is a military urban city. Its children are growing up amongst terrorist attacks and target killings. They wonder if school will be on tomorrow; will they reach home safely; will their cell phones work; should they take an alternate safer route. They flip the channel reporting casualties in a blast without batting an eyelash; they have become immune to violence. This needs to be changed. Karachi needs to be more loving.

Karachi with its jam packed roads, its sudden rain, its hot chai (tea) and spicy chaat and its cool evening breeze is bleeding and dying. But there is a chance to save it. The humans of Karachi need to be reminded about compassion. They need to practice it naturally. They need to be grateful and patient. They need to help when they can, however they can, because only then Karachi will survive. And its survival is our survival. After all; Karachi is you. Karachi is me. Karachi is home.

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March 8 – Women’s Day

Pakistan, like the rest of the world, celebrated International Women’s Day on the 8th of March. Various articles were written, ads were released and the country seemingly pledged to respect women, appreciate them and work towards making the country a better place for women to live in.

While we were “celebrating” women in national dailies, having television specials and conferences to talk about their lives, Pakistani women continued to suffer the indignities that are heaped on their persons day in and day out. From news of a rape victim self-immolating in desperation because the perpetrators who gang raped her were set free, to a woman being buried alive- and those are just extreme cases- the trend of women being humiliated and victimized through various forms of violence continued in all its glory during March. We need only scan newspaper headlines to open the Pandora’s box of atrocities that Pakistani women deal with in their lives.

Despite paying lip service to equality and the notion of human rights and civil liberties for all, women continue to be treated as second-class citizens in Pakistan. Granted, more and more women are stepping into the professional sphere, pursuing advanced degrees and we have several illustrious women who have made us proud in the distant and recent past, and will continue to do so. We have more women taking part in political processes, more women speaking up, and more women becoming aware of their rights as citizens. And yet, all of that is not enough. For one Malala, we have countless women who continue to be oppressed and victimized; even Malala herself has not been spared the vitriol, having been subjected to all kinds of accusations.

Like most social problems, attitudes towards women are psychologically entrenched in our society- and those are the most difficult to change. How do we go about building a grass roots movement that will put into motion long-term social change? The answer will depend on how much we are individually willing to do, and how much of that individual effort can translate into collective action. It also depends on how seriously we take the problems facing women in Pakistan.

Biases start in our homes. As a conservative society, we expect women to observe certain limits and tend to treat them differently than we do men. We find these attitudes no matter which social strata we venture into.

While we cannot expect changes to occur immediately, we can make it a personal mission of sorts to do our part in changing attitudes. Starting by teaching our children, especially boys, that women must be respected and valued is something we can all do. Standing and speaking up against wrong is not always easy, especially in an environment steeped in bigotry and intolerance. However, there are several brave women who strive, often in the face of great danger, to fight for the rights of Pakistani women. It is these individuals to who we must support and take inspiration from, so we too can do our part to make this country liveable for half of its population.

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Basit Sohail at Aga Khan School Garden

Basit Sohail at Aga Khan School Garden

Cultivating motivation in a child with the simple aim of creating desire and drive in order to succeed is a universal challenge for parents as well as teachers. An extremely motivated child is always a pleasure to teach. This is simple because motivated children don’t let obstacles stop them from continuing. A child can use its head and creatively think of 101 ways to find and reach that jar of cookies you hide in your kitchen. It is no surprise that 3 year old children can use smart phones and download aps. Children are getting smarter by the generation and it is evident that if given the right guidance, they can surprise the best of us.

It was during the initial stages of Charter for Compassion Pakistan’s Ramzan Challenge 2013 that we were able to identify a young and motivated individual. Basit Sohail of class 9 at Aga Khan School Garden showed us that he could become a champion by doing what was necessary and create a social welfare project that would benefit a large community. At first, Basit had no clue as to what his project for Ramzan was going to be until it finally dawned on him that he had always been inclined towards spreading education and so he came up with the simplistic idea of creating libraries in underprivileged schools.

Now that Basit has a fair idea of what his project was going to be about, all he needed was a suitable name to go by and so PEAKS (Pakistan Education And Knowledge Society) was born. On the first day of Ramzan, Basit set out to collect all types of books from his home and his relative’s homes. As his collection gradually grew from 20 – 30 books, he started to receive books from some of his friends as well and when he thought that he had used up all his contacts, he decided to go to Karachi’s famous Sunday Bazar and purchase some books.

Basit Sohail at the Ramzan Challenge Finale 2013

Basit Sohail at the Ramzan Challenge Finale 2013

Within a span of 2 weeks, Basit successfully collected just over a 100 educational books that were ideal for a schools library. The final stage of Basit’s project required him to deliver these books to an underprivileged school and to complete this, he visited Sir Nadeem Ghazi’s English Institute in Lyari and decided to help that school set up its first library by donating all the books there. The schools Principal, teachers and students of the school acknowledged Basit’s efforts.

Though Basit single handedly attempted and succeeded in creating a library, he did not win the Ramzan Challenge. However, his efforts were not in vein, the judges were so impressed by his determination and motivation to spread education in underprivileged schools that they decided to announce a spontaneous consolation prize of a donation of 400 books for Basit’s cause.

We asked Basit what he though about his work and whether or not he wants to continue spreading education in this form. The boy coyly smiled and said, “Most definitely.”

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CfC Ramzan Challenge 2013

The Ramzan Challenge 2013 was a new journey for the CfC team as a different venture was embarked upon that was significantly different from the earlier direction that this event had adopted.

CfC-Event 456

The Ramzan challenge gathered a significant amount of interest as opposed to the previous years, mainly due to the ‘hands-on’ approach that the CfC team adopted and the prize money on offer. The aim, to make these students the ‘agents of compassion’ was well-served as some groups came up with astonishing ideas and activities that they had planned all month long.

The CfC-Team took it upon them to provide back office support to all Agents. Groups residing in Karachi spent time visiting CfC Pakistan’s office in order to discuss their respective project details, implementation progress, hurdles, future goals and contingency plans. The veracity with which these projects were executed simply blew the CfC team away.

The culminating event of the Ramzan Challenge was the presentation of all the projects at the Marriot Hotel, in Karachi on the 17th of August. A panel of judges comprising of several different industry CEOs and prominent development practitioners were on hand to assess the projects with regards to their sustainability, viability and community impact.

Each group was allowed to give a short (7-8 minute long) presentation to the judges, comprising of pictures, videos and their overall strategy. There was a short question and answer session at the end of each presentation where the teams were quizzed by the judges on points that were unclear or needed further clarification.

As neutral observers, most members of the CfC team were simply blown away by the effort and time that these students had put into their respective projects. While the competition was certainly very tough, the judges had to reach a consensus on who would walk away with the prizes. The winning project was deemed to be ‘Green EduCycle’, which aims to introduce awareness and advocacy on the importance of recycling as well as partnering with green eco-initiatives to bring recycling on a large scale basis in Pakistan.

RC Finale Collage

The first runner-up was ‘Project Ujala’, which created a network of women artisans that have skills to create artifacts, clothes, jewelry and other accessories that can be sold online using the ecommerce boom in Pakistan. Thereby they are providing these women, who mostly reside in urban slum areas, with a whole new set of opportunities and expanding their market outreach.

And finally, the second runner-up was ‘Learning Mania’, which was a group of technology-savvy students who created a website promoting educational videos online for free. Their aim is to make education available to all and sundry, using simply an internet connection.

For the CfC team, the period of planning, implementing and then judging the competition was an exhilarating experience.

“Not only has it brought to us the feeling that our cause will ultimately prove to be fruitful, it has given us the strength and the vision to forge ahead. We look forward to organizing many more such initiatives in the near future.”

 Aly Zubairy ~ Communications Assistant 


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Taking compassion to a new level

While some of us strive to be as compassionate as possible – a kind word here, a helping hand there, perhaps a smile at a stranger passing by – others aim to encourage acts of compassion in others, perhaps through campaigns in schools, discussions in homes, teachings in places of worship. We often find ourselves limited in our reach and the kindness we can bestow. So, to develop an entire compassionate village would be taking compassion to a whole new level and not to mention an extraordinary feat in itself – something Naween Mangi has managed to achieve  through the collaboration of the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust and the people of Khairo Dero.

Khairo Dero is a village near the city of Larkana in the province of Sindh.  Like many other villages in Pakistan, Khairo Dero lacked the basic facilities which most urbanites take for granted, such as clean drinking water, electricity, basic healthcare, infrastructure and other necessities.

Naween Mangi, a financial journalist, set up a trust – the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust, a nonprofit organization – in the memory of her late maternal grandfather, Mr. Ali Hasan Mangi, a philanthropist, businessman and politician. She took the initiative of developing and transforming Khairo Dero through compassion; highlighting the principal that lies at the heart of all religions: to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Keeping in mind this golden rule, Khairo Dero has now become the first compassionate village in the world.

What is most commendable about this effort is the fact that development also targets the mindsets of people. Very strategically, in every phase of progress, the psyche of the villagers has been kept in mind and issues have been addressed accordingly. This is where true compassion lies, as it provides sustainable development in the lives of the villagers.

The first phase of development focused on providing clean drinking water, which was nearly 80 to 100 feet below ground. To tackle this situation, hand pumps were installed in 150 households, followed by a water purification unit. The villagers were asked to provide food and shelter for the workers who came to install the hand pumps. This way the villagers learnt that they would have to put in some effort in order to get what they want, rather than expecting free gifts or favors; they were taught to be self sufficient.

The next phase focused on sanitation. The Orangi pilot project helped design a wastewater treatment unit to handle sewage. As waste used to be collected in a pond, it would flood into people’s homes when it rained. Now, the water is purified by the villagers and, due to its fertile nature, used for irrigation and farming.

Khairo Dero Photos

The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is running the primary school, which was set up (funded) by Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust (AHMMT). One government school is run by AHMMT through an adoption program. These schools have been managed with the right teachers and the right structure. For higher education, funds are provided to interested students. Moreover, an adult literacy program has been introduced that initially only attracted women, but has now managed to grab the attention of men as well.

Khairo Dero does not yet have sufficient hospitals, but volunteers in the village take patients to nearby cities for treatment. Serious patients are taken to Karachi for treatment.

Khairo Dero is a work in progress. Despite the work already carried out and the compassion that villagers show towards each other, there is still room for improvement, especially in the mindsets and behaviours of the villagers. Recently, a small park was built to tackle the issue of lack of compassion in the children of the village. As children are the building blocks society, it was decided that compassion should be taught in schools and the local community centre. One of the initiatives includes a journal maintained by the coordinator at the community center. There are sessions where children relate their acts that are recorded.

Naween Mangi deserves great credit for setting up the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust, and taking this initiative of creating a model village based on compassion for the people of Khairo Dero. She believes in improving the lives of people as a whole. While NGOs usually provide certain facilities in different impoverished areas, they tend to neglect the other deeper issues. In Khairo Dero, however, Naween plans on tackling the deeper issues of the village and their root causes as well, ultimately making the villagers self-reliant, content and, ultimately, compassionate.

Khairo Dero Photos 2

Naween often talks about feeling overjoyed when she saw a grown man holding a pencil for the first time in his life and drawing a line. She also quoted a lady in the village who was really satisfied with her progress in life and believed that she had reached great heights of success which couldn’t be compared to the greatest of rulers of our times.

Real compassion lies in practicing compassion as well as encouraging others to act compassionately and making a mark on the world; much akin to a tree which benefits all those who seek its shade or wish to enjoy its fruits. Naween’s act of compassion has not only changed her life, but has also managed to involve countless others to show compassion in painting a whole village with the colours of compassion.

Categories: Altruism, Compassionate Skills, Courage, Gratitude, Humility, Mindfulness, Self Compassion | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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