Stories written by Faisal Bari

Where We Stand

On the evening of Jan 23, Dawn had the following lead news items on its website: the rape and murder of an eight-year-old child, a follow-up on the death of a young man murdered in a fake encounter, a student’s attack on a teacher, the ‘alleged’ gang rape of a transgender, a follow-up on the death of a professor and another on the death of a student beaten by his teacher, and the murder of a college principal. These were the ‘top’ stories of Jan 23.

Can Education for All Work?

Article 25-A in our Constitution makes education a basic right for all five- to 16-year-old children. For the last many years, governments have been trying to get all children in this age bracket into schools but have not been successful as yet. In fact, though the article talks about all five- to 16-year-old children, most of the focus of governments has been on getting primary education universalised — and we have not even been successful in that as yet.

In Service of Power

Two years ago, a friend and colleague, teaching at a US university, wrote to me asking if one of her doctoral students working on education issues in developing contexts could work on Pakistan and if I would be willing to guide her in her fieldwork. I thought that having a doctoral student look at leadership issues across gender would be good since there was little local research on this. So I said I would support the student.

Growth & Job Generation

Pakistan needs to generate millions of new jobs a year if it wants to absorb the young people who are currently looking to join the workforce. And it will need to continue creating an even larger number of new jobs every year, for at least a couple of decades, since we are still going through a demographic transition and are adding more young people to the population than there are people exiting the workforce. Female participation rates in the labour force continue to be quite low. If more women were to come into the workforce as they should, we will need even more jobs.

Managing Diversity

One hundred and seventy-odd children, four teachers, and two old and dingy rooms. We visited a government boy’s primary school in a village just outside Sargodha. The two rooms had been built quite some time back and were not really fit for classes. Most of the classes were held in the open with children sitting on the ground. The weather was pleasant at the time, but what must children go through in the summer or the height of winter?

Value of Education

Provincial governments have been trying to get every child enrolled in school. Public education systems, across all provinces, have gone through a plethora of reforms in the last couple of decades to achieve higher enrolments. Teacher salaries have been increased, more infrastructure facilities have been provided, there is more monitoring of teachers, teacher recruitment has been made more transparent, and a lot more has been spent on teacher training. Enrolment drives are conducted almost every year. But we have not been able to achieve universal enrolment as yet. This has been a puzzle for governments: why are the last 10-15 per cent of out-of-school children, in the relevant cohorts, so hard to bring into the system?

Social Unravelling

Recently I asked a colleague, who has been living in Pakistan for a couple of decades but had spent the early part of his life in the West initially studying and then working there, if he missed being abroad and regretted his decision to move back to Pakistan.

Teachers and Minimum Wage

Rizwana completed her Intermediate and then, having no other opportunities for jobs that her family would allow her to do, started teaching at a private school near her home. She enjoys teaching. Her family can do with the income she brings, and they felt that this was a good way of keeping her occupied until marriage.

Quest for solutions

COMMENTS on a number of my recent articles have stated that I have focused on delineating/diagnosing issues and have not given solutions. This is an attempt at starting that conversation.

Up the Creek

On July 19, newspapers reported that a married man who was having an affair was killed in an ‘honour killing’ allegedly by the relatives of the woman he was involved with. One report described the murder thus: “A man died on Monday after five attackers chopped off his arms, lips and nose, taking away his severed limbs with them.”

Entrenched Inequalities

Do a girl born in a poor household in rural Balochistan and a boy born in a rich household in Karachi have the same or even a similar set of opportunities in life? Are their chances of acquiring an education similar? Do they have access to comparable healthcare services and facilities? Do they have equal opportunities for access to physical infrastructure and the freedom of movement and association?

Political Process and Maturity

I WAS a graduate student in Canada in 1995 when Quebec held a referendum to decide whether it wanted to remain a part of Canada or become independent. Parti Québécois, arguing for secession, was in power in Quebec at the time and the sentiment for separation was very strong in the province.

Mea Culpa

Some reports suggest that more than 150 infants have died in Sindh`s Tharparkar district since January of this year alone. However, officials of the government of Sindh`s health department have said that 140 is the fatality toll for children under five years since October last year. Either way, does this not come close to the number of children who were martyred in the gruesome attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar?

Poverty Puzzles

Whichever way you parse the data we have it shows that poverty headcount in Pakistan over the last decade and a half to two decades has decreased substantially. Initially, it was thought the data was not good enough, that it had been manipulated and so on, but even after multiple rounds of national surveys, the same trends are evident. And though the actual percentage of the poor may vary with the method one uses, the trend of falling poverty remains invariant. There must be something to this trend.

Development Without Equity

I could not find a parking spot on the side road and saw that some cars were parked off the main road. So I tried parking there. A traffic warden came up to me and said I could not park my vehicle there. I asked him that since some cars were already parked there, why could I not do the same.