Illustrated: What Are The Pakistani Students Marching For?
Pakistani students are marching on November 29th. NayaDaur Media is publishing the Student Solidarity March manifesto below. The text has been illustrated by our regular contributor Aazadi (Eds.). In 2018, a similar march demanding more rights for students was held across eight cities.
Pakistan is in the grips of a student crisis.
Public and private university fees are spiraling far beyond what an average student can afford; crumbling infrastructure and facilities are causing students to literally succumb to their deaths on campus; scholars are being forcibly thrown out of hostels on and off campuses by university and state officials; corrupt administrations are engaging in and covering up horrific sexual crimes against mostly women students; and when students speak out against these abuses, they are trashed, arrested, abducted and branded terrorists.
University administrations and education authorities have no answers to this crisis. Most are run by ageing unaccountable bureaucrats whose sole interest is in the bottom line and making profits by squeezing students of every penny they can get their hands on. Instead of responding to student concerns through structural reform, they have instead instituted more securitization, policing of student dissent and rigid moral policing to prevent student interaction and collective action. The new government has exacerbated this crisis by slashing the higher education budget.
Enough is enough.
Pakistani students have been mistreated and bullied into subservience for too long. We have one of the worst education systems in the world, with little access or quality from primary to university level, a product of decades of state neglect. Our universities have turned into sterile, suffocating prisons bereft of creativity and innovation where students are treated as expendable commodities and no critical thought or debate is allowed. Decades of unhinged policy priorities and suppression of student unions and representation has led to declining public investment in education and education authorities that are completely impervious to demands for change.
This education crisis has fundamentally affected Pakistani society, depriving entire generations of the capacities to think and act in productive, conscious and constructive ways. It has weakened our economy, starving it of scientific and technological innovation that has fostered the growth of better-educated societies and depriving it of a high quality, well organized labor force. It has led to a gaping crisis of political leadership and governance, leaving politics dominated by moneyed elites concerned solely with their self-preservation.
This must change. Pakistani students are once again questioning the raw deal they have been given. Our decrepit education system must be overhauled with students at its center, as recognized stakeholders in the process of reform. Our rights, of education, of thought, of shelter, of safety, which have stripped us of the ability to have a voice must be recognized and protected.
Together, we have power.