ASIA/PAKISTAN - The appeal of civil society to the government: Do not teach hatred towards minorities at school

Friday, 5 August 2022 human rights  

Karachi (Agenzia Fides) - "We want a curriculum that is in line with international standards for our country, which focuses on moral and ethical values. The government should not incorporate religious content in compulsory subjects such as Urdu and English. Article 22 of the Constitution of Pakistan states that 'No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own'.
We ask for this article to be respected as it promises protection for religious minorities in the learning environment", says Catholic leader Peter Jacob, director of the Center for Social Justice (CSJ), an organization which is active in promoting human rights in Pakistan, to Fides.
In the light of a conference organized jointly by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops of Pakistan, Jacob notes: "We ask that a Commission on education reform be created, which examines previous educational policies. No one has ever analyzed the content of our school books and the side effects that occur in our society for years ". "It is necessary to strengthen inclusiveness in education - observes the leader - especially with respect to religious minorities and marginalized groups. Teaching Islamic content in compulsory subjects is unfair as even students of religious minorities are thus forced to study and take exams in these subjects". The CSJ appreciates the government of the Sindh province that has changed the school curriculum, taking into account the ethnic and religious diversity existing in the province. The NCJP is also analyzing the Single National Curriculum adopted in Pakistani schools in order to provide relevant suggestions. Christian and Muslim experts share the call to adopt and follow and implement a "Single National Curriculum" for education, conforming to international standards. Among the scholars, Riaz Shaikh, Muslim, Dean of the department of social sciences at the "Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology" in Islamabad, agrees in pointing out "discrimination and gender issues in the national curriculum", which then, he remembers, "it is neither followed nor implemented in the madrasas, the Islamic Seminaries".
Tauseef Ahmed Khan, member of Pakistan's Human Rights Commission, notes with concern that "our Curriculum includes content that sows hatred towards minority groups and this is becoming a source of hatred in the hearts of students for first time as early as 2004. We need our students to absorb content that speaks of peace, harmony and justice".
Kashif Aslam, NCJP Program Coordinator, speaking to Fides says: "We have done a great job over the past ten years to remove hate material from textbooks. We do not want it to go to waste. We need to eliminate contents that give rise to fundamentalism and also to violence".
Members of human rights and civil society groups hope that "the government will make sincere efforts to save education from any degeneration" and that the education system is inclusive and respectful of equal opportunities, so that all children can receive a high quality education. (AG/PA) (Agenzia Fides, 5/8/2022)