On 29th and 30th August 2016, the ‘Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace’ (WISCOMP) organized a two day conference on the theme of ‘Educating for Social Change’. The objective of the conference was to understand the key concerns in the content of education and the role of educators in creating a cadre of young generation who are able to take on the mantle of steering the society towards a peaceful civilization.The panelists were Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA – Delhi), National Commission for Minorities (India), VIDYA (Delhi), Delhi Public School (National Capital Region), Government College of Education and the Department of Lifelong Learning (Srinagar, Jammu), Bluebells School International (Delhi), Ambedkar University (Delhi), Qadims Lumiere School and Girls College (Peshawar, Pakistan). The conference ended on a high note with a Katkatha puppet performance by renowned artist Anurupa Roy and her team.
Through the panel talk and participant dialogue, it was found that there is an implementation discrepancy in the quality of Government (Public) and Private Schools’ education. Also, the culture that is imparted at school was found invariably and unfortunately in stark contrast with filial culture. The extent to which a nation’s philosophies shape gender perceptions; impact the individual woman through her concentric circles of influence (family, teachers, society and parties / agencies). The areas of action for creating gender equitable society were identified to be judiciary, economy, general awareness, advocacy for empowerment and redefining the standards of violence to include all instances, no matter how slight, into the fold of violation. The conference served as a platform to discuss the impact of conflict on education. Panelists who spoke on the same, had braved the Jammu and Kashmir curfews to attend the conference and be the representational voice for discussing the impact of conflict on children and that adhered educational system which does not take into account the dynamism of everyday life. A panelist hailed from Peshawar which is geographically placed in the province of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and spoke not only as an educator in the socio-cultural environ of the province in Pakistan but was also a representational voice for its people. The province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also home to Malala Yousoufzai’s Swat District which the panelist spoke about, against the ethos of the film, ‘I am Malala’ (Fox Searchlight Production House).
Prof. Farida Abdulla Khan from the National Commission for Minorities, spoke about the divisions that Public and Private school system in India, create. Children who come out of either schools, emerge as individuals who have unhealthy differences among themselves. At the generic level, the education system in India is non-inclusive and lopsided. Owing to the fact that Public schools are heavily subsidized; the quality of services in them are impoverished. The Private schools, charge hefty fees to the parents and create citizens who have an elitist attitude towards ownership of responsibility and ambitions that stand in the danger of cornering those deprived and giving undue privileges to those who already have the same in abundance. Prof. Khan stated that privatization of all schools is not a solution to the problem since it will further exclude those who cannot afford it. The participants and the panelist had a dialogue about the fact that for school-going girls, no matter which type of school system they belong to, have to not only deal with gender stereotypes in school and at home; but also, deal with demands from a life that are very different from what they learn at school and for which they find themselves unequipped to deal with.
The panelists from Kashmir stated that unlike the rest of the country, gender is not a volcanic issue that is being dealt with, at the level of academics. For the state, the issue is more about ‘Kashmiriyat’ (the state of self-identification through religious and political identity of the state). There was an expressed concern among everyone that Taliban infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir will lead to religious education that is intolerant towards other systems.
Ms. Bushra Qadim Hyder who represented Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province enthralled the audience by her take on the film ‘I am Malala’ which was screened right before her presentation. Ms. Hyder spoke about violent extremism emerging in Pakistan that has caused destruction of infrastructure, ever-increasing deaths and mass displacements of people. The adverse psychological impact of the same has been manifested through depression, hopelessness, frustration and seething anger in the masses. Education has been one of the casualties of terrorism arising out of violent extremism. Due to political instability, the people have been living in uncertain times filled with civil unrest. The pressures of living in such an environment and ensuring that education is not hampered; is a stressful condition that the educators deal with unceasingly. Like India, Pakistan too has Public and Private school systems. It also has Madrassas which are recognized to be on par with formal education. Ms. Hyder resonated the same sentiment that Indian educators feel about creating two types of citizens who differ in their ideologies because of the school system they happen to be educated in. These differences have been counter-productive to making society a cohesive civilization. Ms. Hyder expressed that student sensitization should take place at the level of their value system, beliefs, attitude and perceptions. The role of educators is to work on the emotional hooks of the students which will lead to productive communication, creative and critical thinking.
Towards the end of the conference, Ms. Anurupa Roy and her team performed a Katkatha which creatively highlighted the genderization that takes place in the society. For the two days, the participants and the panelists shared knowledge, ideas and created anaction oriented agenda to be implemented in their areas of work.
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