‘Youths Of Good Family’ Cannot Signify The Male Youths Only. Why Can’t Aitchison College Be Co-Ed?
Driving across the Mall road of Lahore on a working day has become a nuisance in itself. As the traffic signals turn red, the attention is deflected to the mesmerising edifices on both sides of the road. And the most distinguished is the institution which was established on the objective of educating “youths of good family’’ – as mentioned on its website – The Aitchison College.
Lahore’s Aitchison College acts as a goal for any Lahori boy or his family. It was an exclusive club designed to cater to the needs of the sons of the elites and princely families. The idea was to train the royal sons of India to cope with the responsibilities that lay ahead for them as leaders in their respective fields.
Reverting to historical evidence, this College was the third in line – the first Chiefs’ Colleges being Rajkumar College in Kathiawar and Mayo College in Ajmer, India. A landmark development in the history of Mayo College took place when the foundation stone laying ceremony of what is known today as its sister school Mayo College Girls’ School was held on August 1, 1987. Rajkumar College for Girls was inaugurated on March 24, 2011.
Embedded in these steps is an awakening of conscience submerged with liberalism. The idea of co-education in Aitchison College might hurt the male ego of the Aitchisonians. But isn’t it true that the ‘youths of good family’ should not signify the male youths only? Or is the finest elite still not educated enough to accept the rule of equal opportunities for their female counterparts?
The 130-year old legacy of Aitchison College has managed to manufacture an image that the ‘Best leaders of tomorrow’ will essentially be boys. Making it co-ed would change that image and impression, as girls will be given equal opportunities and will receive the same kind of attention.
This would also result in exposure to diverse values and lifestyles and a rich academic experience. The all-boys, semi-boarding school also creates a very toxic, chauvinistic environment, where emphasis is mainly placed on being ‘manly’, a concept that is outdated for today’s world where focus is shifting away towards embracing a more emotional, sensitive and sober image of manhood.
Aitchison’s campus and culture provides unique opportunities which are not available in most other private schools. For instance, the large sports grounds which women must also be able to access, so that they are also encouraged to play. This would also lead to a change in the mind-set that girls ‘cannot play sports’.
A co-ed setting would also expose the students to the facts of the real world as in most business and community settings people must know how to interact with both men and women. It would enable them to get a practical experience of how to collaborate, solve problems and resolve conflict with both sexes. It will also develop a level of maturity in the individuals as they would know how to interact with the opposite sex and treat them as normal people, not just their romantic interests.
Aitchison College has a high percentage of students getting admissions in foreign universities. It makes me wonder how they’d deal with that environment after spending their entire school lives in an all-boys facility. The segregation reduces the mutual respect and acceptability between the two sexes and is later reflected in their relationships and workplace ethics.
An extremely vital point that demands attention is the alumni events such as Founders’ Day, Goa Night and other activities frequently taking place at Aitchison, strengthening the networks and ties amongst the old students who are literally running this country, including the current Prime Minister and various former Chief Justices of Pakistan. Why are girls deprived of such opportunities?
Although Pakistan has formalised its commitment to improving education sector outcomes through several actions in the recent past, including the insertion of Article 25-A in the constitution which guarantees free and compulsory basic education for all children 5-16 years of age.
In addition Article 25(2) states that ‘there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex’ and where the discrimination takes place the literal rule of subsection (3) clearly states that ‘Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the protection of women and children.’ Thus the constitution of Pakistan clearly protects the rights of women and also permits to include any provision to demolish discrimination between genders.
Our respectable Prime Minister, who calls Aitchison as his other ‘home’, knows how important the role of women is in the growth of a nation. His political party’s manifesto pledges reform, especially in promotion of women education. The highest number of women voters trusting his leadership skills now demands equivalent opportunities for the same women. ‘Naya’ Pakistan concept entails a ‘system of acceptability and tolerance’. Hence, transforming Aitchison into a co-education College would unquestionably raise the level of confidence and self-reliance among women.