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Here’s How Pakistani Teachers Brainwash Their Students

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Hassan Zaman writes about his experience of being told absurd lies by his teachers in school and college, and how he confronted them. The absence of critical thinking and academic freedom in our educational institutions is a serious issue that merits urgent action.

When I was in 7th grade, I remember my English professor at a school in Lahore telling me that Taliban are our ‘misguided brothers’. I was too young to understand that it was wrong to glorify terrorists. But then when I came home that day, I saw the news of a bomb blast outside a Police Academy in Lahore. There were several casualties and news channels were showing footages of people running around for help. A few moments later, I heard on the TV that Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack. It made me recall my teacher’s statement. I wondered as to how those murderers can be our brothers.

I started reading about the Taliban and their involvement in terror attacks in Pakistan, and came to the conclusion that the terrorists are not just ‘misguided’ but there is a method to their madness. And that this Talibanization is direct result of Afghan jihad and some Muslim countries’ attempts to fuel the flame of extremism in Pakistan. I decided to confront my teacher.

During a lecture, I asked him why he called Taliban ‘our brothers’ knowing that they have the blood of thousands of Pakistanis on their hand. The response that I got shattered my self-confidence as well as my hope in the education system of the country. He said that I was being influenced by Jewish propaganda material online (I had once mentioned that I use internet for research purposes).

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And he said that I should be careful because this is how Jewish agents pollute the minds of young people. All the students started laughing, unaware of how wrong the teacher was. Our children are not taught

I did not argue with him, but I decided that I would do something about the fact that children like me were being taught lies. Being the monitor of my class, I decided to hold a study circle every day. I would tell my fellows how dangerous the Taliban are. Some of them were convinced, but others were not ready to unlearn what they had been taught. But I kept trying. It didn’t change much, but I did my best.

The series of lies and misplaced facts continued until I finished my school. When I started college, I had read enough books to know that such propaganda is the hallmark of our education system. A number of my college professors would say similar things. One of them once told the class that Malala Yousafzai is an agent of the west and her agenda is to destabilise Pakistan and Islam. I confronted him in front of the whole class and started stating facts. He argues with me as far as I could, but in the end admitted that this was a sweeping statement to make. However, he gave me a C grade in finals despite my 80 per cent attendance and satisfactory performance in exams. My fellow students told me I should take him to court because he wronged me, but I said it won’t change a thing.

The need of the hour is to promote the culture of critical thinking in our schools and colleges. Such teachers should not be allowed to play with the future of our country by feeding lies to the children. Educational reforms are a must if Pakistan is to move past its history of violence and unrest.

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I therefore wholeheartedly support the upcoming Students Solidarity March being organised by progressive students across the country. Their demands are comprehensive and address all the issues in our educational system that need to be fixed. I would join these student marchers and together we will raise our voice for academic freedom and critical thinking in educational institutions.

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