“The foundation of every state is its youth.”
Short. Simple. To the point. It’s a fact that was articulated in the third century by Greek biographer, Diogenes Laertius. Why then do some countries remain oblivious to this easy and accessible truth? The country of Pakistan currently boasts one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. That, coupled with a booming population of 180 million, more than half of which is under the age of 17, presents Pakistan with two options: either to cultivate or neglect its youth. From its dismal statistics, including the fact that Pakistan’s illiterate population is currently growing and that Pakistan has something close to 6.8 million out-of-school children, it appears that Pakistan has chosen to neglect its youth.
In youth lies opportunity. The youth represent a form of weaponry an
d defense that no amount of missiles can surpass. I believe that this opportunity comes in either education or extremism. And it is my utmost belief that these two opportunities a
re, indeed, mutually exclusive. If the government chooses to provide a consistent education, a well-balanced life is promoted. If there is a lack of consistent education, the opposite of a well-balanced life is promoted, including, but not limited to, extremism in poverty and ignorance. Without an education, the only opportunity to exist lies within extreme tendencies.
Two opportunities: education or extremism. With the government overspending on military matters and under spending on education, Pakistan has opted for extremism in its finances and, ultimately, in its country’s own agenda. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the foundation and very literal future of any state, and in especial, Pakistan, lies within the youth. With Pakistan’s largely and largely growing youth-oriented population, the overspending on the military is a
statistic that is inversely affecting the youth as a whole. Understandably, Pakistan has had to face certain setbacks. Its counterinsurgency and war on terror have definitely made domestic priorities hard to balance. But education should never have been out the balance in the first place. Like government, ideally, it needs to be a staple in Pakistani society. The disparate educational system that spreads across public and private schools needs to be modified; while three fourths of Pakistan is learning the bare minimum, if that, an elite one-fourth is learning the maximum and then some. The shadow cast by Pakistan’s infamous ghost schools – schools that the government has on record but in actuality do not even exist- make ghosts out of the children who purportedly attend them as well. The absentee rate of tea
chers in Pakistan competes with the American urge to cut class. And the national curriculum remains outdated and in need of mass revision.
Instead of overspending on the military, I propose that Pakistan invests in an extremely ancient yet equally effective weapon: its youth. As a Pakistani-American, I see the education of my family in Pakistan as a constant struggle upwards. In all my time as a student, I have never once thought that my teachers would not come to school, that my school might shut down, or that I might not have a desk upon which to write. We’ve been lucky. Living in America does that. And if you’re reading this, chances are your educational experience was far from ghostly. But until the government of Pakistan chooses to place youth over weaponry, it is upon those of us who have received an education to give back.
After all, it requires the education of one to cultivate the education of another. Give back. Look back. And strengthen the very literal back of Pakistan- i.e. its youth- by giving back.