The Express Tribune Editorial 6 February 2021

Primary sciences


Physics, chemistry and mathematics are considered primary sciences. Yet they are facing utter neglect showing the free fall that our education and public instruction are in. A study report of the Board of Secondary Education Karachi has made disturbing disclosures. Over the past three years —2017, 2018 and 2019 – most students scored 50% or less marks in physics and mathematics. The state of affairs is similar at both private and government schools. In 2019, about 82% cleared the physics paper, and a mere 12% students obtained around 82% marks in the subject while 27% could secure only 50% or less marks. Of the 83% students who cleared the paper, 34% secured 50% marks and lower than this. In the same year in maths too, students’ performance was dismal as only 12% of them obtained 80% or more marks in the subject. Of the 83% successful students, 34% scored 50% or less marks. The subsequent two years saw the trend unchanged.
In the modern world, success of nations depends on their proficiency in basic sciences. The authorities should be knowing the fact yet they are not paying serious attention to the study of basic sciences; the prevailing situation shows they are neglecting education altogether. Not many are taking up chemistry as a subject of study either. The BSEK survey reveals that both public and private schools in inner city areas have only one teacher carrying the designation of science teacher for the three basic sciences. Not only are such teachers poorly paid, they are also not trained and properly qualified. The report attributes this to low fees at these schools. Moreover, the stress at these schools is on rote-learning which does not encourage the spirit of inquiry, inquisitiveness and questioning. It is highly surprising that the authorities seem to be ignorant that a maths teacher can teach physics but a physics teacher cannot teach maths. How much is spent to keep the people ignorant and uneducated.



Greedy coup


The criminal gang running Myanmar is now cutting internet access across the country in order to maintain its illegitimate grip on power. We would expect no less from a military headed by generals that the UN Human Rights Commissioner wants to put on trial for war crimes. Some of those alleged war criminals — responsible for the butchering of the Rohingya people — are now formally running the country after acting from behind the scenes for years. The coup leaders claim they acted because there was fraud in the November general elections, where the military-backed party was thrashed. These allegations were rejected by the local election commission and international observers, and the military has provided no evidence to back up its claim.
A more likely reason comes from the observations of pro-democracy activists. Army chief Min Aung Hlaing, now effectively the dictator, was due to retire later this year. “He has also used his position to ensure his family have lucrative business interests, which he won’t be in a position to protect after retirement,” according to Burma Campaign UK director Mark Farmaner told Time Magazine. Min Aung Hlaing, army chief since 2011, is already under US sanctions and a travel ban due to his role in the Rohingya genocide, which he has previously referred to as a “final solution” — literally the same term the Nazis used for the Holocaust.
Perhaps that is why even the military’s excuses for arresting Aung Sang Suu Kyi and President Win Myint fall flat. Suu Kyi was arrested because her security detail had “unregistered” walkie talkies, and Win Myint is locked up violating Covid-19 restrictions by waving at political activists. This is why the UN Secretary-General made one of his most aggressive speeches to date, saying the UN “will do everything… to make sure that this coup fails”. And yes, we know Suu Kyi is no friend of the Rohingya, but she represented a transition towards a system where bad leaders can be replaced before they run their country into the ground, as the generals were doing before her.



PDM 2.0


The PDM is intact. And this is arguably the only achievement that the 10-party opposition alliance has had since it was founded on September 20, 2020 with the aim of toppling the PTI government through mass agitation. While the PDM failed to mobilise the masses against the current dispensation, its constituent parties could not either devise consensus on a strategy to overthrow the Prime Minister. This lack of unanimity of thought resulted in insufficient action – something that contributed to the alliance’s non-achievement thus far.
Actually, the PDM made some very serious miscalculations – one, the opposition coalition misjudged the public mood, expecting a throng of inflation-hit crowds in their jalsas; two, it erred on the government’s relations with the establishment, wrongly sensing some kind of a rift with an exploitation potential; and three, the member parties, with the sole exception of the PPP, overestimated their strength. No wonder, the ‘grand’ alliance turned out to be a ‘grand’ embarrassment.
The PDM has thus decided to have a new beginning. At a marathon meeting in Islamabad on Thursday, the heads of the PDM member parties have decided to take part in the Senate elections next month from a single platform rather than tender resignations from assemblies before the Upper House vote. It will now stage a long march towards Islamabad, and not towards Rawalpindi as threatened earlier, and that too after the Senate vote – on March 26. And its actual fight is with the PTI government rather than anybody else, as already made clear by none other than the PDM head, Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
So here is a new-found PDM which now appears convinced that it should rely on “democratic ways” to oust the Prime Minister – at least to begin with. As for the long march announcement, it looks more like a formality, a face-saving attempt, rather than a serious proposition to occupy the streets unto the resignation from the country’s top elected office. The long march is timed after the Senate vote, which will actually be a test case on whether the alliance should risk going ahead with a no-confidence motion against the PM. So it’s pretty clear that the PPP’s stance – and not the PML-N’s – will now guide the PDM’s politics.

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