Nazir left home in a fury to locate his 12-year-old son, Shaheer, who had gone out with friends despite his disapproval. He soon caught sight of Shaheer flying kites with his mates. The sight of his son playing only added to his wrath and he couldn’t help but drag his son back home. It was now time to teach him a lesson; to punish him for the unforgiveable crime of leaving home without finishing his homework and for producing a “shameful” result in a recently held examination.
Shaheer was but an ordinary student. He could not come up with a “satisfactory” response to his father’s train of allegations. The father, from his experience of life, knew that instilling fear in children works wonders. So he decided to pour kerosene oil at his frightened son to scare him further, hoping this would fix his unruly son and make him score better in studies. He took it a step further and lit a matchstick so that he could make him do his homework invariably in the future, but the oil caught fire and instead of turning his son into a diligent student, he instead burnt him badly, amid shrieks of agony, reprimand, and ultimately, regret.
Shaheer was rushed to the hospital immediately where he breathed his last, two days later.
‘A father allegedly burned his son alive in Karachi’s Orangi Town by pouring kerosene oil on him as the poor child failed to give a “satisfactory” answer about his studies,’ reports a newspaper, and we read, mourn and move on with our lives.
‘Killed for not doing homework, burnt for not producing commendable results’! Perhaps this isn’t atrocious enough to catch our attention, not significant enough to make it to our list of collective tragedies and dilemmas?
Suspect tells investigators he just wanted to “scare his son”. I want to ask: scare him from what exactly?
Every year after the school results are announced, the schools and academies display the success of their enviable high achievers on billboards and eye-catching posters. These academic sensations with their flaunting smiles, symbolise “success” of their respective educational institutions. Such display is essential for institutions to sustain their customers. However, there is a flip side to such mighty educational advertisements.
In a system saturating with marks and grades, the existence of those who cannot stand out is an everyday struggle. They are punished, shamed and mocked daily by their parents, teachers and peers for not meeting certain expectations. They go on to live with an ingrained sense of ordinariness, shadowed by the bright stars that shine on the billboards. They fear being looked down upon at social gatherings and being labelled a “failure”.
Like Shaheer, if they defy to be outshined by staying true to their inner selves, they might as well meet a similar dreadful fate. As a society obsessed with academic brilliance, will we ever pause and think about what we crush below our feet as we race towards this “ultimate success”?
The academy mafia subjugates parents’ minds for the sake of their own exponential growth and create an impression that educational excellence is inevitable. It makes them believe that the only ability worthwhile is to produce outstanding exam results and the only commendable quality is to be academically brilliant. Even when many, including the parents, in their heart know that to cram and reproduce the well-delineated content in exams, is certainly not the skill required to navigate through the real challenges of life. Still perhaps it is the stress of the expectations that come with sending a kid to both, the school and tuition centre, combined with the monetary burden of massive fees, that makes parents believe it is rightful to expect from their child to bring them honour with grades. When the child fails to do so, they feel justified in their reproach to punish the child.
That brings us to another relevant point: does the majority of our educational institutions have a system to evaluate the mental status of parents and children? Maybe it is an idea too implausible considering that the very environment in these institutions is responsible for burgeoning certain mental health disorders.
All over the world, society at large and the professional arenas are evolving with the growth of technology, especially since the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This, in turn, is having a significant impact on the educational realm too, leading to entirely different teaching and grading scales. Moving forward, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, team management and life-long learning need to be incorporated to upgrade our existing outdated school curriculums. At the moment, our students continue to be suffocated in a rotten education system, replete with outdated content and a ruthless criterion for assessment where “marks” remain the only yardstick to gauge intelligence and capability.
As this frenzy of achieving marks increases every year, and so does the ensuing pressure on kids, should we not challenge our national obsession with good and bad marks? We as parents will have to focus on this consciously since we cannot expect those who monetise on this trade of grades to do it. It is certainly inhumane to expect excellence in things a child has no aptitude in and penalise the child when he falls short in a godforsaken marking rubric. Also are we not able to see that most of the highfliers are indeed not high achievers from matric or O-levels? Will we continue to suppress our children’s innate abilities under this pressure to constantly compete with XYZ’s kids?
Many of our kids are losing themselves at the production factory of grades that is our educational institutes or are losing themselves to the violence faced at home from parents for not getting good grades. For our children, we should not make the attainment of scores their sole purpose in life. We should detach the dreams that we have for our children from the ambitions of institutions that monetise education. Remember, every child regardless of their performance in a test, is worthy of respect; we should not let respect thrive on solely getting A-grades. Most importantly, we need to modify our education system with the understanding of contemporary global trends and standards.
As the innocent Shaheer leaves for an abode where bad marks and unfinished homework are not punished as the gravest of sins, we need to reflect to answer this at least: how many more children will we sacrifice at the altar of “education”?
The writer is a graduate from King Edward Medical University. She is currently working as an Assistant Professor at National University of Medical Sciences. She tweets @SOCIETYTALES.
Credits: Published by Daily Tribune on Sep 27, 2022