I have spent the better half of last month reading instead of writing. I feel this is a necessary exercise both as a digital activist and as a writer to absorb whats going on in Pakistan’s digital media space. While I have been doing this Musharraf has returned to Pakistan to quite a bit of hype earlier which has now petered down to a whimper as he is now being attacked left right and center for the crimes which people claim he has committed against this nation.
Being someone who actually believes that musharraf did a lot more good then he did bad, no matter what people might say about his 8 years in power. I still cannot forgive him for one thing and that is the crime of not force feeding education down this countries throat like his so called mentor Ata turk did for the turkish people. I count this as his crime because Mush was perhaps in the most unique positon as a military dictator becoming the hero of millions in his first two years in power, and with ratification from the judiciary had ample time to implement a stringent education reform which is the dire need of this country. He did not though and left the countries education system as he found it in utter disarray.
The current political government which ended its term successfully has not much else to claim as its success than to reach its culmination itself in the field of education. We are still in pretty bad shape as half of this countries population is now under the age of 22, yet not even half the children going to school among them complete basic primary education. There are many many ghost schools being provided budgets in this nation to fatten the already swollen bellies of ill gotten treasure seekers while students who want an education are either lacking it due to no school being present in their area, or under the threat of nefarious forces who simply wish to keep large sections of our populace i.e the women deprived of this basic right.
The most appalling of our characteristics as a society is not just inability to educate our children but the fact that most of us still regard teaching as some kind of third rate profession instead of the honorable and cherished status it should have. In short we aren’t just “not proud” of our teachers but “shun” the profession as it is not well paid & demands a lot of hard work and patience which we as a nation do not have. Although there are some among us who are still working hard for this cause and the movements in the digital sphere at least in the last few years are proof of this. First came the education emergency which was lent a lot of column space and entered the dire need for education in the public narrative with its 1,71419 signatures on a petition to the government to deal with the situation at hand. I feel they did wonderfully well as far as awareness of the problem is concerned.
Lately however I have been following a movement called Alif ailaan which I personally feel can make a real impact in the plan of action on education as far as what the pubic wants the government to do. Why do I feel this? Its because I feel that along with communications tools that social media provides to us with its ever increasing information decimation network it also provides us with the ability to ask questions from people in power we normally do not have access to. That to me is the real beauty of social media which the mainstream media will never have as mainstream is mostly a one way traffic feed & that is exactly what Alif ailaan empowers you “joe nobody” with.
When you sign up to this campaign you can log in and view the area below which shows a map of Pakistan according to its elected constituencies.
To my knowledge and you may correct me if I am wrong, there does not exist a single forum in this country for contacting the elected officials on a particular issue in one digital space till Alif Aailan. This is what the map above does for you, you can click on your city and constituency and then ask a question on education from the different parties in power or vying for power there. One step access to your mandate ladies and gentlemen…and they say mainstream media will act as your check and balance? Here you can be the check and balance yourself!!
Aside from this “Alif aailan” also provides you with very well prepared info streams on the situation of education in this land, comparisons with global averages as well as the ability to see the status of education in different parts of this nation. The above however is what makes it stand out to me at least as an ordinary voter. If the campaigns management can make the parties who are fighting the current election (and they promise to do so) accountable on this issue then I think we can actually change things around for at least education in Pakistan. Needless to say I have joined this campaign and I feel every one of us as a responsible pakistani should do so as well for this is related to our children’s future.
Normally it takes decades for a country to rise from the pits of education and literacy we are in to a progressive national status, but those tales are of a time with the existence of no digital media. The times where a man crying on the docks of England to sell fish could not become a celebrity overnight just because of digital media. Speed is in our hands folks..so if we can as a nation choose to make one issue viral why not focus on education first?