Community development

August 10, 2020

In our country, community development has been totally ignored, yet it is most important to help people in their development programmes at the grassroots level.More than 35 years ago, I visited...

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In our country, community development has been totally ignored, yet it is most important to help people in their development programmes at the grassroots level.

More than 35 years ago, I visited China many times. They were going through a very difficult period and I wondered how they were going to manage any development with such a large country and so many people. I soon realized that they were very pragmatic and proud to be an independent nation.

They gave priority to the development of science and technology and to community development. The miraculous results of their policies are there for all to see. At that time I had the feeling that we were more advanced than they were, but look at the difference between us now.

We should follow their example, viz the Commune Development System. I visited one and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. It consisted of many hundreds of acres of land containing animal farms, vegetable, wheat and maize fields, fish hatcheries and everything else needed for the day-to-day living of the people. There were also barefoot doctors (somewhat similar to our compounders) who could deal with simple, every-day diseases. All those living on the Commune received enough for their requirements and the surplus was given to government stores to sell. It was an excellent system which worked well.

The first concern in community development is education – a prerequisite for prosperity. For many years we have been trying to find a solution in Pakistan to our declining educational system. Although some private schools in primary education have created small pockets of excellence, the majority of children in Pakistan, especially in the villages, are bereft of such basic necessities as proper schools, qualified teachers, textbooks and allied paraphernalia. Is it surprising then that the man in the village prefers his son to stay within the family profession or to send him out to work for the survival of the family?

Where does higher education and research stand? Research requires expertise and command of the subject in question. Above all, scientific research requires absolute integrity, the ability to work hard and an intrinsic thirst for knowing the true nature of things. Within the framework of realities in Pakistan, are we educating our future generation to strive for excellence and to research into the true nature of things? Definitely not.

We seem to have failed to realize that, with modern communication, the world has truly become a small place. No one in the international scientific community can be fooled by false claims. The circle of top scientists in the world is a very small one and all those involved in the same field are known to each other by virtue of the excellence of their scientific contributions. Scientific research has become a cut-throat 'industry'. Even a Nobel Laureate had to resign because he had failed to verify the accuracy of the claims made by scientists working under him.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no accountability in any sphere of activity in Pakistan. Irresponsible and inaccurate reporting in newspapers and periodicals lessens our credibility in the eyes of the international community. Two cases that come to mind are the claims that a laboratory in Pakistan had developed drugs for AIDS and a claim of the development of a unique gene probe for diagnosing tuberculosis. Both claims were later debunked, but not without loss of face.

Fortunately, we have the Aga Khan University, Karachi, the GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences & Technology, Topi, the Dr A Q Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering – a part of Karachi University and a few other institutions famous for their respect for merit and ability. This is the foundation stone for establishing integrity and reliability and is a matter of pride for Pakistan.

The government has decided to revamp our education system, definitely the need of the day. However, we should be careful to raise the standards of those below par, but avoid pulling down the good ones to a lower level.


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