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Last Updated: Friday, 8 December 2006, 21:51 GMT
Pakistani youth seek better education
By Umber Khairi
BBC Urdu Service

Students at a school in Islamabad
Better access to learning - and a universal syllabus - was seen as crucial
If you were in charge, what would you change in your country?

This was the question we put to around 100 young people in Pakistan. And the majority of these youngsters, aged between 12 and 18, listed improvements in education as their top priority.

Click here to read the thoughts of some of the youngsters

Education was perceived as the key to eradicating poverty, ignorance and unemployment, and young people from all social classes thought that providing education to all children in Pakistan was important.

It was also seen as the key to improving the condition of women.

But some who listed education as a priority added that imposing an Islamic system was important.

These included not just students from less developed areas or in madrassa education, but also young school students in urban areas.

They particularly criticised the image and lifestyle projected via Westernised Pakistani and Indian TV channels.

Cheating

Meanwhile, students in urban areas listed road and traffic problems as a major concern, making their commute to schools and colleges difficult.

And some youngsters had very distinctive things on their agenda.

One 13-year-old from Karachi said the first change she would make would be to ban smoking in the whole country; another said that her first priority would be to spread awareness about the need to end cruelty to animals.

In a democratic system, if there are 100 ignorant and illiterate persons versus 99 educated ones, the illiterates would win
Mahammed Adil, 16
Young people from poor families who had left school and had to earn a living were the least able to articulate their views.

15-year-old Nabeel said he had been in a state school in Karachi, but the teachers were "awful", never bothered to teach them anything and cheated to get them through their exams.

He was full of regret at having dropped out of school, as education "would have made people respect me and opened up many employment opportunities".

Youngsters lower down the social ladder also listed rooting out corruption and reforming the police as a priority.

Girls from low-income families who were at school were surprisingly articulate and committed to the idea of educating women.

And many of the students in private schools spoke of the need to work for the country rather than go abroad to study or work.

When talking about the problems young people face, many spoke of educational pressures and expectations, others expressed concern about the unregulated use of the internet and young people visiting "bad sites" or communicating with strangers via the internet.

When asked what country could be a role model for Pakistan, quite a few cited China, while other countries mentioned were Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan and England.

America was mentioned in negative terms. Some students said Pakistan was in danger of breaking up, because of the government's handling of the situation in Balochistan and the tribal areas.

However most youngsters did not regard the future of the country as completely bleak.

I would make Pakistan into a developed country.

There is no development going on at the moment. Also, one should be able to elect the president, so that people don't come along and just take power on their own.

There are a lot of things we need to work on and change. There is a lot of poverty in our country and shortage of water, food and education. Especially education.

We can only end poverty through education. Education is the way.

I think the government should provide poor children with schooling, and take care of all their schooling needs - books, clothes, everything.

And an effort should be made to provide good teachers with good teaching methods, because that is the way children will really be able to learn.

NADEEM, 13, KARACHI

First I would fix all the roads in the country.

And I would arrange to look after all the poor orphans in the country, make sure they are given food.

I would also fix the police, especially the way they take bribes from people to do their work."

SEERAT, 13, ISLAMABAD

First of all I would give financial help to the poor people.

And I would set up schools and colleges for them.

NAUSHEEN MUSHTAQ, 17, KARACHI

First of all I would put an end to the security arrangements of the president and other VIPs, because they cause so much inconvenience to the general public to ordinary citizens.

They create traffic chaos and disruption when they are in town or need to go somewhere.

Other than that I would raise the standard of education in the country. I would make whole country have the same syllabus and the same examination board.

It shouldn't be provincial education boards. Everybody should have the same course and be evaluated on that, everybody should have equal opportunities in education.

HAFIZ ABDUL NAVEED, 17, LAHORE

I'd give education top priority.

Along with education I would also try to end unemployment so that we can wipe out poverty, so that every citizen can have a good life.

ZAHEER BABER, 18, LAHORE

I'd lower prices, especially petrol prices.

Prices have shot up in Musharraf's time. It wasn't so under the last president.

They say that oil prices in the world have gone down, but here the fuel price has increased.

Ninety-nine percent of the people in Pakistan are dying because everything is so expensive. You earn only Rs 100-150 a day.

How can whole families subsist on three or four thousand rupees a month?

MAHAMMED ADIL, 16, CHARSADDA

First of all I would try to finish corruption.

I would also like to improve the security situation. The biggest issue is education.

Our literacy rate is very poor compared to India or other South Asian countries, our literacy rate is the lowest in any comparison and this must be changed.

The political situation should be changed as well. The army should not govern, it should fight or stay in the barracks.

We need an Islamic system rather than a democratic system. Because in a democratic system, if there are 100 ignorant and illiterate persons versus 99 educated ones, the illiterates would win.



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