Kuch Karo

Previously, the kids had been given a project to picture a utopic Pakistan, think on its various facets and share it with the rest of the group. Day Ten, therefore, began with Tamkeen coming forward with her well thought-out vision of universal, affordable education, and textbook standardization. 

Maliha used this as an opportunity to ask the participants what they would do to fix the education crisis in Pakistan. Some said that they would "fix the system," some others said that they'd "get better teachers" while others planned on "building more schools." Varied as these plans were, Maliha pointed out that they were all too vague. 
Vagueness, Maliha explained, is what weakens a proposal or a statement. Clarity, on the other hands, strengthens a proposal, a clear proposal mentions exactly how you define the terms you use and outlines exactly what you plan on doing and how you will execute said plan. 

Maliha quickly told the kids that one of them had arbitrarily been appointed the Minister of Education and that everyone else was part of a council of policy advisors to the Minister. She told the group that they had to work together to come up with plausible, concrete and practical solutions for the education crisis. 

The first problem the council came across was what the "system" that needed to be fixed really was. Who or what was part of it and how was this determined? Did it have stakeholders? 

Once this had been tackled, some progress was made. The council, with some guidance, concluded that a public forum would have to be set up where people's complaints and suggestions would manifest themselves. The needs of the people would be assessed, prioritized and dealt with accordingly. 

When Maliha asked the group where the funding for all of this would come from, Taha remarked that people asking for money were beggars. Maliha talked about various scenarios - tax collection, charities, disabled people unfit for employment, sponsorships and grants - and asked him if each of them, in turn, counted as beggary. Although he did not really reply, it was clear that he did not feel the same way about each situation. 

Somehow the conversation morphed - rather organically - into a debate about what someone had to have for them to be able to get a job. After the debate had gone on for a good ten minutes, Rauf, who had been quiet all this time, spoke up and asked, "What kind of job are you talking about?" It became clear that everyone had been debating with a different kind of job in mind. Maliha took this in stride and explained that this was exactly why vagueness was bad. 

As the conversation was brought back onto track, Maliha began to talk about symptoms and causes. Symptoms, she explained, are the signs that something is wrong, with that something being the cause. Fixing the latter is only palliative (aaand I just used an SAT word I never thought I'd ever use) and does not ensure that the symptom disappears for good or not other, similar symptoms do not pop up.  
The group then began to assess the cause for the education problem in Pakistan. Ruqueia pointed out that it was feudal lords who were not helping bring universal education to the country. When Maliha asked them why they thought this was the case, they only had vague replies. 

A role-play activity, thus, began. The Idea Room became a village which Taha christened Dholakpur. Maha became the feudal land-lady of the village and the other participants became the residents of Dholakpur. Since the land belonged to Maha, the profits from what the farmers grew in her land went to her. Maha, in turn, provided her villagers with land to live on and some basic facilities. It soon became clear that, using this amassed wealth, Maha could buy arms or even bend laws to ensure the continued exploitation of her villagers and the continued flow of wealth into her coffers. Were all the residents of Dholakpur educated folk, they would be more aware of their rights and be less compliant. 

Maliha used colonialism as another such example of how amassed land and money translated into power. She gave a brief outline of colonialism and instructed the kids to find out more about it on their own. She then said that it would be really cool to see maps of how the world had changed during the colonial period. I promptly found this video. 
The group then read this letter, which was written by Einstein to Gandhi, commending him on his staunch belief in non-violence. Maliha then discussed how non-violence could be used against people who still use violence. 

Before the day's session ended, Maliha introduced the concepts of vicious cycles and poverty traps to the kids and briefly discussed how these could be solved in the light of universal education. 

- Asad
8/12/2013 05:34:18 pm

That was substantial. I really liked the way you made the participants and students to understand the importance of clarity in thought about any proposal. I am sure that they had a great learning experience. The kids did a great job as well as you.

9/5/2013 10:40:02 am

Such a nice blog, I created an account here too.


Leave a Reply.