Textbooks and tolerance -Sindh is set to remove bigotry from its school curriculum
By Ali K Chishti
In spite of the rich and diverse cultural history of Sindh, textbooks in the province promote bigotry and glorify war. The provincial government says it is all set to change that.
“Our books refer to Hindus as enemies, and that is very embarrassing for me,” said Narender Lakhwani, a Hindu student who has lived and studied in Karachi. “I am a Pakistani Hindu and proud of it, but our books portray me and my religion as the enemy.”
Education has become a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment, and the province has been ruled by the liberal People’s Party since. Nisar Khuhro, the provincial education minister, says his government has already developed a new secular, progressive and fair curriculum. “We won’t teach our children hatred. We will focus on objective, critical thinking.”
The most significant problems with the existing curriculum and textbooks are i) insensitivity to the religious diversity of the nation, ii) incitement to militancy and violence, iii) perspectives that encourage prejudice, bigotry and discrimination towards fellow citizens, especially women and religious minorities and other nations, and iv) the glorification of war and the use of force.
A source who asked not to be named confirmed there had been changes which would be implemented in the next year’s textbooks. “But considering pressures from right-wing groups, we can’t make major changes.”
The changes are due in the revised books of Social Studies for classes III, IV, V, and VIII, Urdu for Class VII, Biology for classes, IX, X, XI and XII, and Physics for Class XI. Changes have also been made to Islamic Studies textbooks.
“During General Ziaul Haq’s rule, Jamaat-e-Islami took over the Education Ministry with the purpose of indoctrinating and brainwashing students with their own agenda,” said Professor Azhar Siddiqui, who has headed two prestigious colleges in Karachi. “The curriculum, especially Pakistan Studies, Islamic Studies, and Urdu, was tailored to suit a certain worldview and agenda – which created hatred and intolerance within our society too.”
The Pakistan Studies book for classes IX and X (New Millennium: Introduction to Pakistan Studies) emphasizes creating a caliphate. “Man is Allah’s deputy, caliph, or viceroy on earth,” one chapter says. “It is the responsibility of all Muslims to make effort for a caliphate.”
There are clear differences in the pre-1979 and post-1979 curricula. There syllabus before the Islamization era did not eulogize war and militancy or urge students to become mujahedeen and martyrs. The target is not only India or Hindus. The curriculum targets all non-Muslims and countries and seeks to teach a particularly virulent version of radical and militant Islam to Pakistan’s children.
“This hatred and intolerance towards others needs to cool down in our textbooks, which in the long term affect one’s political views, psychology and attitude,” says Dr Azfar Rizvi a psychologist from Karachi University. “What we are teaching our children is hatred, which in turn is isolating our children from others.”
Sindh Textbook Board has been the most progressive of all provinces, taking the lead in formalizing a reform policy in 2006. According to Prof Siddiqui, who has been part of the curriculum board, the federal curriculum wing had rejected the Sindh board’s manuscripts on several occasions. “Making provinces in charge of the curriculum will be a game changer.” Secondary schools in Sindh were at the center of a controversy when a book on “life skills” advocated using condoms and discussed sexual health issues.
“NGOs and foreign forces are influencing our education system to make it secular,” says Mufti Naeemi of Karachi’s famous religious school Jamia Binoria. “They are trying to make Muslims into infidels by brainwashing our children. We will stand up against this and will not let it happen.”
Besides pressure from religious groups, efforts to reform the curriculum in Sindh have also suffered because of an apparent tussle between the chief minister and the governor. “Governor Ishratul Ebad had been the de facto controller of Sindh Textbook Board over the years. It is only in 2013 that the chief minister has taken over,” said an official.
“You will see new textbooks beyond Class I in the next session,” said Sindh Textbook Board Chairman Rafique Ahmed Buriro.
Courtesy: The Friday Times