The Right to Education and Pakistan Minorities – side event at the U.K. Ministerial on Religious Freedom – July 6th 2022

Jul 5, 2022 | Uncategorized

Right to Education and Pakistani Minorities

Meeting on 5 July 2022 12:30-13:30

Role of the UK Aid – Lord Alton

Speech by Lord Alton

Background

1. Education is a fundamental right of every child, and it should be provided without any discrimination or bias.  We know that the Pakistani textbooks in subjects such as Islamic Studies, Urdu, English, Social Studies, History and Pakistan Studies,routinely praise the Muslims and undermine non-Muslims and their religious beliefs and values. The curriculum, presents as factual, the superiority of Islam and its injunctions over any other religion or belief, and Non-Muslim pupils’ faiths’ religion, culture and traditions as inferior.  Non-Muslim students are forced to regard their religion as inferior.  Thesebiases and prejudices inherent in the curriculum result in religious discrimination intolerance and hatred towards religious minorities.  

 

2. There are numerous examples of this but just one illustration is a typical one. A sentence in a tenth grade book reads: “Because the Muslim religion, culture and social system are different from non-Muslims, it is impossible to cooperate with Hindus,” according to a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. “A review of the curriculum demonstrates that public school students are being taught that religious minorities, especially Christians and Hindus, are nefarious, violent, and tyrannical by nature,” the 2016 report concluded.

 

3. Furthermore, the Hindu and Christian students are often bullied and humiliated in classrooms, occasionally killed for their beliefs seen as either Indian (Hindu) or Western (Christian).

 

 

4. We also know that the pupils belonging to minority religions face consistent invitations to abandon their religions and embrace Islam. All these factors cause many of them to feel despondent and rejected; and they leave school without any qualifications. 

 

 

5. A Pew Research Center Poll conducted in 2013 revealed that Pakistan was among the top three countries in the world with the highest social hostilities towards religious minorities. In this sense, the textbooks inculcate blatant discrimination within the body of students, while making the minorities feel ostracized within their country.

 

6. The biased classroom environment and education system is not only harmful for the minority students, but also for majority members. It leads to a dangerous sense of superiority complex among the Muslim majority students, and the graduates of this biased system see nothing wrong in forcibly converting non-Muslim.  Some of this aggressive behaviourcan result in abducting, converting to Islam, and forcibly marrying young minority girls. The societal approaches including the official position exonerates this behavior, instead of recognizing and punishing such criminal activity, 

    

7. Finally, the bigotry inherent within the fabricated information doesn’t simply serve to exert power over the minorities. It also indoctrinates the minorities with a sense of inferiority to maintain social control.

 

Importance of the Girls’ Education 

 

8. The APPG believes that the Girls’ education strengthens economies and reduces inequality. It contributes to more stable, resilient societies that give all individuals – including boys and men – the opportunity to fulfil their potential.According to the UNICEF, girls who receive an education are less likely to marry young and more likely to lead healthy, productive lives. They earn higher incomes, participate in the decisions that most affect them, and build better futures for themselves and their families.

 

9. But education for girls is about more than access to school. It’s also about girls feeling safe in classrooms. Unfortunately, the minority girls suffer even more; and come under even more persistent pressure to convert in the government schools than the minority boys. This insecurity persuades many parents to withdraw their daughters from schools, early marriages, unhealthy children and poverty. This poverty cycle can only be broken with more girls being provided with education and ensuring a more educated next generation. The experience has shown that given half a chance, they outshine the boys easily.  

 

UK Aid Role in alleviating illiteracy among the minority communities

 

10. The UK has a vital role to play in improving the appalling literacy rate among the minority communities, especially the girls, who are a priority under the UN goals and the British criteria for providing aid.  Pakistan is one of the biggest recipient of the UK Aid, and a large percentage of aid is given to take children off the streets and into schools.  However, as earlier speakers have pointed out, the literacy rates among the minority students have been steadily going down. Indeed, in a meeting with the education experts from Pakistan, Col. Azim, from the Church of Pakistan Lahore Diocese Education Board, termed the present situation as an Education Emergency for the minorities. 

 

11. Historically, the Christian missions run schools have provided education to millions of children over 75 years, regardless of creed or faith, in Pakistan. They have helped to uplift and educate the nation.  The nationalization of education institutes, including the Christian church run schools, in 1972, affected the community badly, and it still has not been able to recover from the shock. The high illiteracy rate among the community can be traced back to that fateful decision, as the Churches lost the control of those schools, their efforts to increase literacy among the minority students were halted. The new owners, the provincial governments, felt under no obligation towards improving the literacy rates among minority students. Additionally, those schools had provided jobs opportunities for minority teachers, which were lost after the nationlisation.       

 

12. A recent House of Commons International Development Committee has also advised the FCDO to focus its spending in Pakistan on supporting marginalised groups, including women and girls and religious minorities.

 

13. The APPG for Pakistani Minorities has been playing a vital role in highlighting these concerns and advocating in meetings with the British Ministers, the need to include minorities among the list of marginalised communities. We have also proposed to the British Government that a certain percentage of the UK Aid should be reserved for the education of the marginalised minority students particularly girls and for the teacher training; as well as to improve their infrastructure and admin systems. 

 

14. I will also add that any UK Aid for funding the minorities education institutes should be conditional, on these schools improving their capacity to receive funding, and administrative structures; and should be based on the principles of accountability and transparency. Moreover, the APPG could play a role in advising the UK Government about the value and effectiveness of the proposed projects at the planning stage.   

 

15. Furthermore, if the British Government, agrees to this suggestion, this could be replicated by other Western Governments such as EU and the USA as well as international donors such as UN, and the religious minority students could be more assured of receiving education in safe environment, and be better citizens of tomorrow. 

 

 

APPG for Pakistani Minorities 

July 2022

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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