In a movie “Out of Africa”, a young Western Lady visits Africa and is motivated to open a school there. The local tribal chief does not approve her project. The lady meets the tribal chief to convince him about the usefulness of education. Among other benefits of education, she tells the tribal chief that it would civilize his people. The tribal chief (probably referring to involvement of Western societies in slave trade) rejoinds, “Has education made you people (in the West) civilized”?
The tribal chief could have asked the same question quite comfortably from the educated people in Pakistan. But, unfortunately the answer to this question would certainly be in negative. If our education system had produced good, civilized people, the state of affairs in Pakistan would have been much better today. Then, what difference does it make whether we have a literate society or an illiterate one? One of my friends, Raza, once remarked cynically that we do not require an educated society in Pakistan, because the poor country could not afford the loot and plunder of so many educated. He further explained that they are the so-called educated people (despite being in minority) who have done greater damage to Pakistan than their uneducated compatriots. If we scrutinize the validity of the above-mentioned statement we again come to the same conclusion that our education system has produced more barbarians, plunderers, agitators and quislings than the civilized ones. Or, for that matter, education has not brought about desirable changes in the thinking, habits and “civility” of most of the so-called educated people. Look at any aspect of our society. For instance, you cannot differentiate between an educated driver of a vehicle and an uneducated one on the basis of their driving practices/habits. Both drive with the same hastiness and ruthlessness. Both have similar level of disregard for traffic rules. Both have no respect for the rights of a pedestrian or a cyclist. Where is then education? Take another example. You go to a bank to deposit some utility bill. If you are fortunate enough to acquire education, you would be wise enough to go straight to the bank manager’s office and would relax there and have a cup of tea while your utility bill is taken care of, instead of standing outside the bank in the queue of “less mortals” and “illiterate” masses who are seen haggling to get their utility bills cleared. Who is more educated and civilized? The one, who ignores the queue or the one, who stands patiently for his turn to come? If two examples won’t suffice, take another example. You go to a market to buy something to eat. You’ll see people (literate as well as illiterate) standing beside tuck shops eating Chana Chat, fruit chat or enjoying a cold drink or a cigarette and littering the surrounding with the same level of “commitment”. You can’t find out from their littering habits, “Who is educated and who is not”.
In western societies, one finds clear distinctions between the educated and less-educated. The educated people in these societies are more polite, more law-abiding, more tolerant and more patriotic citizens. Community sense and regard for individual and collective responsibility runs deep in these societies. I can still recall one incident from my six-years stay in Norway when one of my Norwegian friends admonished me for using too much water to bathe myself since the city municipality had advised to make judicious use of water in view of possible water shortage after two months. I was deeply moved by the concern of my friend in the capacity of a responsible citizen. Now, if we could recall such incidences which called for positive response from educated citizens on individual as well as collective basis, could we pass out as responsible, civilized citizens? In a nutshell, the question arises: Are we, who claim to be educated, law-abiding, civilized, tax-paying and patriotic citizens? Or, isn’t it true that we, in fact, are merely literate and not educated in the true sense?