In this day and age, as a human, I am disappointed. As a Muslim, I am mortified. As a Pakistani, I am ashamed. But as a student, I am helplessly oppressed.

When Malcom X called on students to prepare for the future, he could not have imagined that the passport he had advocated for would be made a shackle for the student class of the world, inflicted on them for years and decades on end. The education of today has crippled the average student of their curiosity, their social antenna, and their will to make something out of their lives that they truly love. It has also changed classrooms from an oasis of learning to a cage of nightmares, and their occupants from soulful humans to racing rats who are tested on newer, harsher and more efficient policies which encompass everything A-star and vanish runners-up holders.

Why is it that we are forced into a sprinted marathon lasting for years and years, only for the vast majority to attain a mere decent paying, 9-5 labour up until the day they die? And how come it is us who are expected to study our lives away, when the number of A’s and A*’s have little importance in our employment? And how is it fair that we are expected only to work what comes unnatural, while any and every action we take that goes against this crushing ideology is sucked out through a series of taunts, emotional blackmails and ill-founded but frightening warnings that is this oppressive system. 

I ask myself these very questions every day when I am woken at an hour ungodly, when I stuff my rucksack with thicker and thicker spines that bring down my youth in addition to my back, when I am made to sit in dull cells for hours upon hours of continuous and monotonous chatter that kills the part of me that wants to sit under a tree, catch a butterfly and listen to Mother Nature perform in all of her sweet glory. I ask myself these questions when I cram before my History assignment or my Economics assessment, when I confine myself to my room where books, registers and notes litter every inch that I once called mine. I ask myself these questions when I lose sight of my PlayStation, when I lose clarity whilst leaving that new blockbuster unfinished, when I lose time to go out in the sun and kick a ball across a field.Now, before you go all ballistic on me, know that I obviously do not love tormenting myself with tracing black letters on a depressing white, but it is the time and system that I am born in that does not let me leave theorems and geometry incomplete before I can embrace the dear that is sleep. It is this system that has convinced me, and most of my peers that anything less than an A is a failure on my part. It is this system that has blinded me to the possibility of pursuing my passions if they do not align with traditional royalties like medicine or engineering, and it is this system that continues to hold this blindfold tight on my eyes. It is this system that has indoctrinated me, my parents, my fellows, my teachers and my future employers that success is what all humanity must strive towards, wealth and power equals success, and successful are those who achieved an A, rather than a B, even if the latter is miles and skies above the former in intellect.

And the reason why we fall victim to such universal schemes is our inherent forgetfulness on what the human creature is meant to do. And that is to be. Just be. To exist and exercise free will in all, and truly all matters that concern them. To leave no stone unturned and no book unread in their pursuit of happiness. Once we start to forget why we are educating ourselves, we create another, senseless ‘why’, one that is created and which benefits private education industrialists, the bourgeoisie to our proletariat.

And as Pakistan has always remained the Suzuki to the world’s Volkswagen, it is only understandable that this voiceless crisis is tremendously magnified. Pakistan follows two highways of education; one for the privileged and one for the pauperized. Both suffer. With Cambridge students studying at expensive private institutions, it is a nightmare come true if they choose to pursue further studies in their homeland owing to the grossly unfair equivalence system, while the other stream has little chance of higher education abroad, especially if they have gained mediocre results for much of their student life. So not only are the students oppressed but they are oppressed separately, a colonial legacy.

It would also not be fair to exclude the prevailing mindset of our ‘elders’ who feel that a well-paying, stable job, or governmental service is the destiny of their children. Hence, they go about convincing them that their view of life is superior just because they hold more experience. Thus starts this chain of emotional oppression, blackmail and inflicted dreams that fires the already pumping engine into a pit of anxiety, embarrassment and self-doubt.

Locking academics aside for a moment, let us also look at other ghosts of the student life that murder a deserving joy that the youthful students later regret not having. With the concept of an ‘all-rounder’, most universities go for students who peel themselves away in painting gold their college applications, appearing for God knows how many tests and interviews, serving the community half-heartedly and pointlessly every other corner, and also manufacturing that spark that many schools look for, in addition to managing the storm that is straight A’s. This leaves no time for one’s self, one’s reflection and one’s freedom to spend the strength of one’s youth finding the passion that will last for a lifetime.

Respect the student. Respect their effort to make something out of themselves instead of pushing them to a place where all they can hear is ‘do more’. Respect the choice they make when choosing how to spend their life, and respect however they may do so. Appreciate their hard work and not the single piece of paper that very much does dictate their future, so that this may change. Understand that mental exertion is just as important and difficult as physical labour, if not more.

Trust that they will figure life out.

Jalal Tarar is a published author, A-Levels student, a founding member and a writer for Jayzoq Media.
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Mahnoor Tabassam
Mahnoor Tabassam
2 years ago

Absolutely love the article and the way it has talked about the average student perspective on the educational system.