De-nationalization of Minorities’ institutions and the challenges ahead. By Sheraz Khurram Khan

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Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hit Pakistani Christian community most in the wake of nationalization of private educational institutions in early ‘70s. Like other minorities communities, who were robbed of their institutions, Pakistani Christians also suffered enormously for a period spanning over some 35 years.

Taking over of the institutions by then Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government had left the Christian circles concerned about the future of the nationalized institutions. Pakistani Christians feared that the government would fail to keep the standing and repute of their institutions, which they had carved out after years of hard work and commitment. Abject handling of the minorities’ institutions over all these years proved beyond any trace of doubt that Christians and other religious minorities were justified for the hue and cry they had made at the time of nationalization of their institutions. But does any one listen to the minorities’ concerns in this country? If heeding to minorities’ reservations was anathema to then rulers then they should have at least listened to the voice of their conscience.

Without considering giving the ominous plan a second thought the rulers implemented it. Though it still would have been unjust but minorities would have slim grounds to denounce the move if the standard of government-run institutions in Pakistan was worth-emulation. Incapable to cope with efficient administration of the existing government schools then government had invited a trouble for itself by nationalizing the private educational institutions.

The minorities had to bear the brunt of the unwise move in many ways. The Muslim heads of institutions discriminated against minority students aspiring to take admissions in the educational institutions. Many Christian teachers across the country had a tough time working with their Muslim counterparts. Christian heads of nationalized educational institutions rendered their jobs under extreme pressures from lobbies of Muslim staff. The worst situations of not tolerating a Christian as their head by Muslim teachers saw protest demonstrations. The students were made to chant full-throated slogans against the principals of the very institution they were studying in.

The post-nationalization period also came as infringement on the minority students’ inalienable right to study their religion. The students who would earlier have a separate period for studying the word of God were now denied this facility, however, the Muslim students had no problem studying Islamic studies from grade 1 onwards. Even today government-run educational institutions remain without induction of a religion teacher.

Minority communities’ people at the bottom rung of society had to suffer the most at the hands of nationalization for they could not afford the alternative mean of sending their children to private schools which are far expensive as compared to missionary and government schools in Pakistan. Condemned to study only in the government-run schools in the absence of missionary schools and colleges these ‘children of lesser God’ studied under very trying conditions.

The plight of most of nationalized educational institutions is ghastly as compared to their pre-nationalization state. The buildings, furniture and the other infrastructure of these institutions are in the worst condition. The academic standards of the institutions dwindled by a great degree. The efficiency of teaching staff underwent decline. Culture of postings on recommendations flourished. Politically motivated inductions and transfers were made. If then PPP government knew it was not in a position to even keep running the educational institutions with at least the same measure of success with which the missionaries were running them then why did it take this step? If the minority’s community’s institutions had not been nationalized they would have now grown in their stature and repute.

The true owners of these institutions were shocked to see the appalling plight of their institutionsâ€"Thanks to the years of neglect and apathy towards them. The missionaries are now again engaged in reconstruction and renovation of these institutions. Well, after some time, the institutions would be in the shape their owners want them to be in but could we make the dropouts between (70s to 2005) studies again in the schools?

What about those minority students who were denied admissions to the nationalized schools? Is there any way of compensating them? How about placating those Christian heads of nationalized schools who were pressurized to quit their jobs because a certain lobby of Muslim teachers wanted their favorite men to replace them? How one could remedy the hurt sentiments of students from weaker segments of society? How could were compensate those minority teachers who lost their jobs in the wake of nationalization process? The worst hit by the nationalization process were Religion Teachers, who could not even struggle for getting jobs in the nationalized schools.

The incumbent government would do well to now share the cost of reconstruction and renovation of the denationalized educational institutions with the concerned minorities’ authorities. Besides, the government should also upgrade the deserving educational institutions, which have recently been de-nationalized. Lessons should be drawn from the nationalization of private educational and other institutions and minority communities should let the country serve in all areas in general but in education and medical in particular for they have outshine many of their otherwise affluent competitors in these two areas by the dint of their missionary zeal and inflexible commitment to serve.

The writer is a free-lance journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan

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