(Mehr Parwar, Islamabad)

“The negligence of the class teacher and the hatred against Christians among a few
class fellows killed Sheron Masih”. Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2017. Sheron
Masih was a student of Government MC High School, Burewala city about 100 km from
the historical city of Multan. Being a boy of Christian community Sheron often faced
extreme level of discrimination and bullying from the teachers and class fellows from day one. His colleagues did not allow him to use glass and water-cooler in the class room because of his faith. Sheron could drink water only after the school and remained thirsty for hours in extreme hot weather. He informed the class teacher about bullying but to no use. The situation became worst when one day Sheron attempted to drink water from the cooler. One of his classmates stopped him drinking water with brutal attack. None of the school teachers took notice to stop cruel beating. The attack was so extreme that Sheron fell down on the ground. Some of class mats tried to take him to hospital but he commended death in the way.

This is not the merely incident which happened with Sheron since several and thousands of children bear insulting temperaments and loathing behavior of teachers and colleagues in Pakistani schools and colleges every day. Moreover the teachers tend to label the children with bad names and comments that frustrate them either to leave the school or to quit from education forever.

Why such behavior prevails in the society and who is responsible for that? The answer must be certainly HOME, PARENTS and SCHOOL from where a child starts learning extreme hatred and dislike for other religions and faith that reflects throughout in his personality. These perceptions get stronger roots when child enters the school and society and faces people with diverse faiths around him. At school the attitudes of the teachers and students resonate the educational discourse frequently results in serious reactions. We come across hearing the statements from young children saying that “I don’t have any non-Muslim friend as my parents don’t like it.” Or “I don’t want to sit with a Christian child” etc. Similarly the teachers demonstrate the same attitude towards the children from sister communities. Resultly teachers’ discriminative behavior with children provoke nepotism, clash of ideas, faith and ignorance among young children and become viral among community and entire country. The perceptions for migrant and host communities seem totally different by teachers and students. More often the perception of Christians is often associated with low social status and derogatory terms. Learning of such discriminative behavior from home, school and community consequently develops extremists, haters, murderers and invaders from the very beginning.

The main reason of this factor can be seen as the absence of the concept and importance of Inclusive Teaching and Learning Approach which has not been identified and discussed in education policy yet.

Considering the above fact Inclusive education is imperative to reduce discrimination in society. Here schools must play a leading role in creating an inclusive society, as they represent the main opportunity for young people of migrant and host communities to get to know and respect each other. Along with that the role of religious leaders is crucial to develop value, tolerance and respect for diversity within communities. Messages of respect, tolerance and value for diverse minorities must be disseminated among communities on occasions such as Fridays and Eid sermons and get-togethers.

Based on the principle of Inclusive education the schools should provide enabling learning environment for all children regardless of any perceived difference, disability or other social, cultural and linguistic difference. Teachers must create more learning-friendly and collaborative culture among each other, families and community to build respect and value for diversity in schools. Moreover teachers and families must be provided with ongoing awareness sessions on inclusive education and its importance to build strong communities. They should discourage all sort of discrimination of race, religion, culture and language dissimilarity by raising messages such as; “We Are Equal, Every Child Is Valued & We Are All Humans”.

Sustainable development goal No. 4 strongly commits to ‘Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Life-long Learning opportunities for all’. The essence of this core value relates to the conception of inclusive education. The teacher’s view of valuing learners’ difference support all learners. His/her high expectations for all learners’ achievements promote the academic, practical, social and emotional learning and increase participation of all learners equally. To do so the teachers should take advantage of diverse learners through creating discussions, communication, sharing of ideas and talks on different religions, cultures, languages and race to create sense of respect, tolerance and value in the class. Teachers must provide equal opportunity to all learners to access to learning resources, facilities and opportunities in the class and school.

At policy level reforms must be made in curriculum to reflect the role played by religious minorities in the creation, progress and defense of Pakistan in various subjects.

In conclusion I would say that diversity is positive; it is important to prepare people from the beginning, to work with the kids to build up a better generation. We should do away with the inequality in our education system otherwise, students like Sheron will be constantly suffering in the country.

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