Education in a Conflict/State Fragility Situation

I’ve been researching the state of education in Pakistan (my birthplace, I’m also a Pakistani citizen but have only lived there on and off for approximately 4 years). Given the current situation in Pakistan, it’s been very interesting to read how education can fuel conflict and instability.

When I first started working on this project, I read a report on how education can be used for destructive purposes. Morbidly fascinated, I started asking myself: How is it possible that an institution so noble and constructive can be used to produce such hateful sentiments? Can this truly happen on a large-scale? If so, where is it happening? Why? How do we make it stop? In a nutshell, I felt as if I had walked away with more questions than answers.

And now, as I look back into my very own upbringing, I see signs. Signs that were prevalent both at home and school. At home, there was always such a strong emphasis on being the “number one” child in school. Not only would that prove my superiority over other children, but it would ensure laurels for my family among extended family members and friends.

I refer to my schooling in Pakistan and India (two rival states unless you’ve been living under a rock). Both have distinct characteristics, and both left me marginalized. Being the son of a Pakistani diplomat made me an easy target for jokes every time Pakistan lost a cricket match, and when I attended an all boys Navy School in Pakistan, I was mocked for just having returned from India. I never understood why diplomatic efforts were looked down upon. So, this project and the work I do overall isn’t just any professional endeavor, it means more to me. It resonates with my upbringing and the person that I am today. I’m lucky I get to do what I do under the guidance of an amazing scholar.

Truth be told, I feel as if I have found a niche in the development sector even though I’m still focused very much on my conflict analysis and resolution degree. It’s interesting (and optimistic, might I add) that there’s still very much a focus on developing critical sectors that are essential to state-building. I remember sitting in one of my classes the first semester and a professor wrote all ongoing conflicts in the world. He ran out of space on the blackboard. Depressing? Yes. But more so, is it encouraging for people like myself who hope to make a difference in the world? Absolutely. I see a real window of opportunity when I hear about overrun orphanages in Afghanistan. I envision myself as a quality teacher when I read about “ghost teachers” in Pakistan. I wonder if I’ll be any good as a conflict resolution practitioner when I hear about the lack of incentives for insurgents (they are, after all, human beings who are heavily misguided).

At the end of the day, the more I learn, the more I know. And knowledge, as we all know, is power. 🙂

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