In our society textbooks are usually the first and the only literary object a child holds. In a society where reading is not encouraged and a child is almost never exposed to opinions different from his or his family’s and almost never gains an insight into a world outside the world created for him by his family, textbooks serve as the only window which allow the child to glance at the world without the glass of biasness.
Unfortunately, the textbooks and the curriculum taught in Pakistani schools do not do much to widen a child’s horizon. They only direct the child’s thoughts to one direction and that direction is predetermined by the curriculum managers. Lately, the material of the curriculum has fallen way below the usual standards and has gone on to include such writings that promote hatred against non-Muslim Pakistanis. Many chapters of Pakistan Studies present a non-real and contorted image of Hindus and British. They are often called derogatory terms like ‘kafirs(infidels)’ and ‘dushman(enemy)’. Some chapters of Urdu textbooks justify killing for blasphemy and term the murderers as heroes. These writings leave a very negative image of non-Muslims in young minds and hence promote hatred toward them.
Recently in the launching ceremony of a report, “State of religious freedom in Pakistan”, by Jinnah Institute at a local hotel in Islamabad, MNA Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani raised the issue and said, “I believe that the curriculum should be amended to change the mindset. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, non-Muslims are mentioned as ‘kafir’ in the curriculum but no one is ready to take notice of it. The Punjab government has formed a board to review the curriculum but done nothing.”
“However, Sindh has revised the curriculum of the primary level which will be introduced in schools soon,” he said.
In this context, Professor Anjum James Paul, Chairman Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association (PMTA) has written an open letter to Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif to highlight the issue saying, “Present Pakistani curriculum and textbooks promote extremism against humanity and human rights but no heed has been paid so far.”
He further wrote in his letter, “PMTA has already identified such material and sent to your good office. National Action Plan (NAP) has not been successful to achieve her goals because government has failed to change the mindsets as curriculum and textbooks have not been changed. Hate speech and extremist material can only promote hate and extremism in the mindsets of the innocent students.”
One of the prominent traits of developed nations is tolerance for differences of opinions and beliefs. In an intolerant society like Pakistan, textbooks can bring about a positive change if used for the right purposes.