Plight of Christian Students in Pakistan
The situation of the Pakistan Christians students, who are in minority and generally from a very poor section of the society, in schools is not encouraging and they have been facing numerous problems during their studies because of their minority status and their faith.
On one hand the syllabus is biased towards religious minorities which they have to study and on the other hand they, generally, have been facing discrimination by their fellow Muslims class mates and the teachers on regular basis. There is a very fragile mechanism which safeguards their rights. A recent incident once again shows their plight in the government run schools.
On May 28, about a dozen heavily armed men attacked a Christian religious leader Pastor Mubarak Masih and his family when his nephew Shaid, 13, declined to his teacher Zufair Gujhar to recite Quran in a government schools in Smundri city of Punjab province. Although the pastor reported to the police, police did not take action against the Muslim teacher who used to force Christian student to read Quran.
The Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association (PMTA) wrote a letter on June 8 to the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and requested him to take suo moto action against the Federal Ministry of Education for violating the rights of the students of minority communities, including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis because of minostry’s biased attitude against these vulnerable students.
The students from religious minority communities are forced to study the biased curriculum which represents of a particular religious ideology. The national curriculum strongly emphasizes on nation’s dominating religion. It is not only the curriculum and textbooks are creating an uneasy situation for them but the teachers of the educational institutions have also been discriminating them. Unfortunately, most schools tend to worsen the plight of Christian children instead of helping them. It is widely known that Christian and other minority students frequently face discrimination, and they may be publicly ridiculed or even beaten by teachers because of their faith.
According to the Minorities Concern of Pakistan, there are about 5 million Christians in Pakistan who are desperately poor. Because of their social and religious status, there is very slight possibility of their children being educated. The government schools are scanty and heavily biased against minority students. For instance, in Muzaffargarh city only five per cent Christian students, after entering a local high school, completed their high school education while 95 percent student could not complete their studies because of various pressures.
According to Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based political and security analyst, governments have lacked the stomach to implement reforms, particularly in school curricula. “In textbooks used in government schools, Pakistan are equated with Muslims…They teach Pakistan is a country only for Muslims. They don’t teach that non-Muslims also live here,” he told the Reuters recently.
Last year, an 11 years old Christian girl, Nadia Iftikhar, was severely beaten by her teacher in Dharema, Punjab. Her teacher was furious when Nadia said that she is both a Pakistani and a Christian. However, the teacher said that according to textbook all Pakistanis were Muslims.
Minority Rights Group International, a London based minority rights organization, says in its latest report State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous peoples 2010, “Education systems can also be used by the state to assimilate religious minority children. Curricula may be imbued with the doctrine of dominant religions and cultures, and may even denigrate religious minorities through the perpetuation of stereotypes and negative narratives. State curricula can be used as a vehicle for persecution of religious minorities.”
“Historically education in Pakistan has been used as a tool by successive regimes in pursuing narrow political ends. The curriculum and teaching methods in public schools helped create intolerant views,” Rebecca Winthrop, with the Center for Universal Education at Brookings, said recently. Education statistics in Pakistan are “sobering” just 54 per cent of the population is able to read and 6.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 9 are not in school. Less than a quarter of the girls complete elementary school and only one-third of Pakistani children get a secondary education, with many dropping out.
Contrary, only 19 per cent Christians are able to read, according to one report. Although, the constitution of Pakistan grantees equal rights to the non-Muslims, many laws and practices clearly not only deny their basic rights, like education and health, but discriminate and persecute them in their own mother land.
Aftab Alexander Mughal, Minorities Concern of Pakistan