Baela Raza Jamil on an exciting educational initiative that began in Lahore at a conference in 2006 and has continued to gather momentum across disciplines
Peace building takes many forms but the most sustainable is the medium of healing through education exchanges, and learning solutions to common challenges from basic to most complex forms of knowledge generation, management and its dissemination.
Since 2006 many of us 'education walas' have been engaged in an exciting initiative that began in Lahore at a conference on February 1-2, 2006 titled "Local Governance, Texts and Contexts Perspectives from South Asia." The conference concluded with the formation of the South Asia Forum for Education Development (Safed). Safed in Urdu is 'white'. It is also universally known as the colour of peace.
Well known professors Ayesha Jalal and Krishna Kumar, in their keynote addresses, urged South Asians to rise to the challenge of 'education beyond borders', seeking answers to education relevance, how children learn, what for, so that we can together undertake fundamental education reforms. Mian Imran Masud, then Minister Education Punjab, endorsed Safed for its work in the core areas of quality and learning; promoting girls education; cross cultural research; education in emergencies; human rights and sustainable development; ensuring linkages of higher with basic education.
Since 2008 Safed has teamed up with Indian institutions like The Pratham Education Foundation, Jamia Millia University, Women In Security, Conflict Management and Peace (Wiscomp), National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) and Ankur Society to find common ground for problems in education. In each endeavour the focus has been to engage in meaningful programs of learning and becoming, beyond an event mentality as a long term enterprise.
Linked to all this are the efforts of Professors Radha Kumar, Janaki Rajan and Veena Sikri at Jamia who spearheaded the South Asian Women Network (SAWN) across eight sectors including education, peace, health and microcredit with women and men of South Asia.
In August 2009, SAWN and Safed invited Sharmila Bhagat and her team from Ankur to a week-long workshop at Kinnaird College Lahore for a publication on documenting narratives of young women living in disadvantaged conditions. The idea was to enable them to share narratives that were empowering and liberating. This initiative will be completed in 2010 for publication.
Dr. Rukmini Banerji, Dr. William Wadhva, Madhav Chavan, Dr. Shahid Mehdi (former VC Jamia) and their volunteers from Pratham and Annual Status of Education Review (ASER) India have supported an amazing initiative for border-crossings through a citizen-led household-based assessment of learning levels of children between 3 and 16 years. This effort in sharing skills for a citizens' led survey has taken place in Pakistan along similar lines as in India, with ASER Pakistan 2008 being launched in Islamabad and Lahore.
The collaboration has been absolutely amazing in terms of people extending gratis technical support. In 2008/9 the rural survey was completed in Pakistan covering 17,373 children in 6,520 households across 326 villages in 11 districts. It has been well received by government as a timely supplementary diagnostic tool to for appropriate actions. ASER is poised for a five year replication in Pakistan in close collaboration with ASER Centre India and East Africa - a South initiative that will keep us on track with respect to our national and international goals of education for all (EFA) and millennium development goals (MDGs). This endeavour needs the support of the media, corporate sector and concerned citizens alike. In 2010 ASER Pakistan will reach 35 districts and 2011 in all districts across the country.
There have also been cross cultural collaborations for a South Asian educators' group in heritage, environment and peace. On March 21, 2010 a week long conference, funded by the US Dept of State, was held on education leadership in Delhi and Karachi simultaneously with over 60 educators from Pakistan, India and the USA. Some well known educators included: Dr. Usha Nayar, Dr. Anil Sethi, Yasmin Lari, Romana Husain, Prof. Radha Kumar, Navina Jafa, Blake Allen, Dr. Mary Ann, Dr. Anita Rampal, Mc Garry, Simi Kamal, Prof. Vikram Soni, Ranjana Sakhia and Prof. Anita Rampal.
Pakistan's High Commissioner Shahid Malik and Deputy High Commissioner and Riffat Masood in Delhi played a stellar role in this conference. Major collaborations were proposed for saving the Rivers Ravi and Chenab much like Yamuna; preserving heritage and environment in our daily classrooms encounters, both within and without walls. We need to not just talk but practice peace from primary to tertiary education through an absolutely impregnable inclusive medium suggested by Professor Usha Nayar, of Education Without Frontiers, echoing Ayesha Jalal.
Professor Vikram Soni was in Lahore as I write this piece calling for public interest science, speaking to researchers, activists, teachers and students to demystify science with mutli-disciplinary crossovers for our sustainability. Simi Kamal from Hisaar Foundation, the architect and conservationist Yasmeen Lari and child rights activist and artist Rumana Hussain (Children's Museum for Peace and Human Rights) have volunteered for action.
Under the banner of Aman ki Asha we urge hosting of a unique two day conference of 16 eminent educators from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, our icons of education and thinking, who will hold conversations with 2,000 youth on the substance of Education for Tomorrow, Yesterday and Today. Bring together eminent educationists from India and Pakistan like Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, Raza Kazim, Yaspal ji, Ayesha Jalal, Krishna Kumar, Madhav Chavan, Amartya Sen, Manzoor Ahmed, Abid Hussain, Anita Rampal, and Dr. Ashraf Ghani from Afghanistan. Aman ki Asha could do this both face to face and virtually in four locations simultaneously. Some of us can volunteer to organise this.
Yashpal ji, Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University is pining to visit Lahore one more time. "Baela, a visit to Lahore, and I shall be at peace with my maker." Can we deny this honour to our eternally young and Grand Educator, who does not go to bed until he is intellectually provoked by 100 questions from children: 'Why is the colour of the sky blue?', 'What makes sea water salty?' 'How do puris puff?'
Each day is a multiple disciplinary journey. Our youth across borders needs to be in the company of inspiring regenerating icons and thinkers. This would be a moment to seize, passing on an invaluable, diverse and rich mosaic of living intellectual heritage of South Asia. It needs to urgently find spaces amongst our youth, valid as narrations and constructions of history, shared today and working as the masala for a resilient future so that South Asian societies will live in peace, diversity and dignity through contemporary powerful knowledge and experience avatars both virtual and actual.
The write is Director Programs, Idara-e-Taleem-oAaghi (ITA) and Coordinator SAFED.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
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