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Do You Need a Laptop?

Those who believe themselves to be the champions of educational reforms, are the most ignorant members of our society. Out of their sheer stupidity and for their own vested interests, they attempt to impose on us Western ways, techniques and systems, without bothering to think about their suitability for our peculiar economic, social, cultural and religious conditions.

During the final days of his life, when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was battling against his fatal illness in Ziarat, the head of his medical team was Colonel Ilahi Bakhsh, who afterwards, wrote an excellent book based on his recollections of those days. According to him, even at the time when Quaid’s health was rapidly deteriorating, he was extremely careful about spending public money. Once, talking to him, the Quaid said, It is a sin to waste money and even worse if it is public money.

Contrary to the noble example set by the Quaid regarding public money, there are our present rulers, who regard the public money as their ancestral property and spend it most lavishly for their own luxuries, or for the consolidation of their own vote bank. The latest example of this shameful phenomenon is the Punjab Government’s laptop scheme, under which, students at graduate and post-graduate level are being given laptops, with the apparent objective of making them more communicative, knowledgable and research-oriented. But every sensible person who has the slightest knowledge of our educational system and the mental and moral level of our students, is fully aware of the fact that this scheme is a mere political stunt, a sheer wastage of public money and an exercise in futility, bringing more harm than good.

One of my own students who already has a laptop has told me that she would like to sell her new laptop to buy one Tola of gold for her wedding ring.

There is no denying the fact that computer and internet are among the most spectacular technological inventions of our time, making every type of knowledge and information accessible to us by the click of a button, and making global communication possible for everyone everywhere in the world. Their multiple advantages for the students as well as professionals are undeniable, especially in those fields where research is really needed and appreciated. But it is also an all-admitted fact that in general, our educational and examination system, especially at the graduate level, neither encourages research nor requires it. In most cases, our students are required to go through their prescribed books and get through the examination. As long as the basic structure and require ment of our system remain the same, there is hardly any use of computer and internet in it. In the few scientific disciplines where research is really demanded, students already have laptops, or at least desktops. Giving laptops to those who already have them, is as useless as giving them to those who do not need them. The first type of students are likely to sell their new laptops to make some money. In fact, media reports have pointed out that a number of students have already sold their new laptops, or are in the process of finding potential customers. One of my own students who already has a laptop has told me that she would like to sell her new laptop to buy one Tola of gold for her wedding ring. As far as the students who do not stand in need of laptops are concerned, they are likely to spoil them or misuse them and waste their own precious time by using them for non-educational purposes. As moral training and character building are of least importance in our educational system, most of our young boys and girls have become habitual of using the best things in the worst manner. Consider for instance, the mobile phone, which came as a handy device with numerous advantages. But the way in which it is being misused by most of our youngsters is known to everyone. For hours and hours at a stretch, during the day as well as the night, they are either talking to their lovers and beloveds, or exchanging text messages, giving no consideration to their studies and prayers. Even in the freezing temperatures of the cold winter nights, they are found engaged in the same futile activity inside their quilts. Can such students be expected to use their laptops for some constructive ends? In fact, during the past few days, I have observed a number of laptop receivers, both boys and girls, neglecting their classes, sitting in the college lawn, playing games, watching movies and listening to songs on their laptops. At home, they are sure to spend much of their time in chatting and visiting pornographic websites. Giving laptops to such immature and morally perverted youngsters is like giving guns to small children, who are likely to use them for their own destruction and for the destruction of others.
As moral training and character building are of least importance in our educational system, most of our young boys and girls have become habitual of using the best things in the worst manner.
The most ridiculous aspect of the whole affair is that those who are giving laptops to the students, whether they need them or not, seem to believe that laptops are absolutely useless for the teachers and, therefore, they have not been included in this scheme. As a matter of fact, for the preparation of their lectures in the light of latest advancements and motivating the students for research, teachers are in a greater need of laptops than students. Moreover, with their mature minds, they are not supposed to make any misuse of computers. But our rulers have entirely different notions regarding teachers. They consider them to be a worthless and contemptible community, deserving no encouragement, no incentives and no early promotions, quite incapable of any research or improvement. But they are utterly neglectful of the fact that even the finest educational system, with all its technological innovations and scientific gadgets is bound to be a disastrous failure, if teachers are discontented, dissatisfied, poorly paid and socially humiliated. Our worst predicament is that those who believe themselves to be the champions of educational reforms, are the most ignorant members of our society. Out of their sheer stupidity and for their own vested interests, they attempt to impose on us Western ways, techniques and systems, without bothering to think about their suitability for our peculiar economic, social, cultural and religious conditions. If an old system that has been in place for decades has got some loopholes or flaws, they can be and should be removed. But it does not mean that the whole system should be abolished together and replaced by an entirely new system, for which neither the students are mentally prepared nor the teachers are properly trained, and for which there are no reliable books available in the market. One such example is the B.S. Honour’s Programme started by the Punjab Government in the 26 leading colleges of the province.
Masterminds of the laptop scheme are gravely mistaken if they believe that all those who have received laptops will vote for them in the coming general elections. A number of students have told me that while they are delighted on getting free laptops, they will not vote for PMLN. Instead, they will vote for PTI or some other party, because the ‘sincerity’ of the Punjab Government with the students has already been exhibited by its mishandling of intermediate results and its highly unpopular B.S. Honour’s programme. Moreover, the recipients of laptops are now urging their parents (many of whom are poor) to arrange high speed internet connections to enable them to conduct their so-called research. At a time when prices of everything are already skyrocketing, one wonders as to how poverty-stricken parents with their already meager resources, can buy high speed internet connections for their children, because the monthly charges for each such connection are not less than one thousand rupees.
Giving laptops to such immature and morally perverted youngsters is like giving guns to small children, who are likely to use them for their own destruction and for the destruction of others.
While the laptop scheme is being eulogized in the government circles, the opposition parties have already started pointing out massive corruption and irregularities involved in it. PMLQ members of the Punjab Assembly have accused the government officials of devouring commission worth 1.85 billion rupees through this scheme. According to them, contrary to the rules and regulations, an advance copy of the agreement with the laptop company was not provided to the NAB. Besides this, instead of arranging the whole deal through HEC, the Planning and Development Commission was approached for this purpose.

These allegations may be true or false, but every impartial analysis is sure to conclude that the laptop scheme is a mere white elephant. If the Punjab government really had billions of rupees, and was really keen to spend that money for the welfare of the students, it could easily have been spent on far more useful and constructive educational projects. It could have been used for providing scholarships to the students or paying their examination fee. Somebody has very rightly suggested that one new laptop costs fifty to sixty thousand rupees, and it would have been much better if instead of giving such costly laptops, each of the students had been given one UPS, which costs around fifteen thousand rupees. In that case, the whole family of each student would have benefited from it and thanked the government for alleviating the sufferings and hardships caused by the unending and torturous load shedding. However, this type of wisdom can only be expected from those who are wise, but alas! Our rulers are not wise, they are otherwise.

By: Professor Abdul Rauf

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