Civil society activists have warned that the recent measures introduced in public education in Punjab are loaded with religious content and nomenclature, changing the very character of school education.
“Instead of modernising education, introducing creative and inquisitive learning, the policy measures introduced during 2020-2021 by the Punjab Assembly, the governor of Punjab, and the Education Department rely on religion centric reforms,” stated Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and Working Group for Inclusive Education in a January 24th update titled “The Policy Confusions in Education Sector in Punjab” to mark the International Day of Education.
“Around 70% of the reported cases under the blasphemy laws during 2021 had taken place in Punjab, where some incidents of false allegation involved students and teachers.”
In December 2021, the School Education Department notified the compulsory reciting of Darood Sharif along with the recitation of the Holy Quran before the National Anthem during morning assemblies in all public and private schools.
“The above-mentioned measures carry repercussions on religious tolerance and rule of law in the province. A student from minority faiths who may not be able to pronounce certain Arabic words correctly, or quote a Hadith correctly could face accusations of blasphemy,” stated CSJ director Peter Jacob.
“In a recent development, data of minority students in Punjab is being compiled, without explaining the purpose behind this exercise. The education department has been indiscrete in introducing this step, raising fears that it will increase religious hostilities in the province.”
Rights activist & educationist Dr AH Nayyar urged the government and stakeholders to work in conjunction with one another.
“Punjab Assembly, in particular, should avoid passing any legislation in haste and without due consultation with relevant stakeholders in the province, including civil society and opposition political parties,” he stated.
“Punjab government should approach higher courts for a review of the Lahore High Court judgment mandating the district judges to make inspection visits to schools for ensuring implementation of Punjab Compulsory Teaching of the Holy Quran Act, 2018.”
“The government should ensure that minority students are not reprimanded for not wanting to study Islamiyat. The government must ensure the provision of teachers to teach minority students their faith books as promised as in the Single National Curriculum.”