Rights of the Burger Child

The first selfie—pouted lips, one eyebrow raised—just reappeared on my Facebook news feed. I’m waiting for the photos of ‘lunch’ to follow. After a week of sloganeering, social media is gradually recovering from the Election. Even the wilder Junoonis are coming home to deposit their reds, whites and greens into the laundry baskets. We’re tuning out to resume work in the offices and the kitchens. Our kids are finally looking at that exam date sheet. Those levels of adrenaline are hard to sustain. Across the country, one after the other, we’re all trying to find our Normal.

Guess what we’re finding? Our Normal is not quite where we left it before this election. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our schools. Elections 2013 has changed Pakistan but it might have made its biggest impact on tomorrow’s electorate: children under eighteen. They’ve been watching us. They rode on their mothers’ hips, held their fathers’ hands, all the way through polling stations. They were dancing at the dharnas.

What we don’t realize when we lambast PTI Trolls on social media for being immature and emotional is—some of the most unrelenting of these Trolls are not quite 18. They have ipods and ipads, Twitter and Facebook accounts, mobile internet. They can troll and meme the nerves off anyone in the ‘voting age’ and its no use waiting for Imran to call out from his hospital bed to tell them to stop it (he probably won’t) and they’re having way too much fun to stop on their own.

A staggering 40 million of today’s children will enter the pool of eligible voters en masse in 2018. While the new government will be thinking of Big, Serious Issues--Kashmir, load-shedding, inflation--the teachers and parents of this country face the Mother of all Questions: How do we educate tomorrow’s little burgers?

Since we’re having this discussion in English over the internet, I can safely assume that you are a fellow burger but you and I are by no means exclusive. The burger child hails from a burgeoning spectrum that begins in the lower middle-class and ends at the other, extreme affluent end. Many are enrolled at schools that their (not-so-burger) parents struggle-yet-somehow-manage to afford. 
Regardless of whether they go to posh private schools or lesser, public ones, this election has revealed a crying need to evaluate what we are teaching urban youth in the name of civic rights and duties.

What Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions do burger children need to attain to be prepared for Election 2018? 

If you had to devise a curriculum for what to teach them, what would you put in there first?


Unknown said...

Very interesting outlook, the burger kids. The problem starts with parents! Period! The average Pakistani is complexed. They are embarrassed to be a green passport holder.
What is lacking is pride in our heritage and culture. And pride comes from within. Not money or branded clothes and accessories which is what parents teach their children by example.
How can you expect their child to be anything different.?
This education I believe starts from home, not schools. If your child has a sound upbringing and you are involved on their lives; enough to guide them, that will bring a change from my point of view.

Blogger said...

I would definitely suggest including world history; a history that would open the minds of these children to other forms of struggle and change besides the neoliberal concept of democracy. They need to be taught that change cannot be brought about in a few months; it requires the struggle and sacrifices of generations of individuals. So they need to be taught patience, persistence and faith. Teach them about Marx, about the French and Russian revolutions, about Nelson Mandela; teach them about the histories of struggle in our own region; teach them about our own leaders Gandhi; Jinnah; Bhagat Singh, Hassan Nasir. Teach them how these great leaders struggled for change. How many of them gave their lives in the pursuit of that struggle. I think these children need to know that you cannot just don IK kurtas and PTI coloured duppatas and think you have done your part. Change requires sacrifices on the part of those who desire it. We all have to work hard towards the change that we want and sometimes have to become that very change ourselves. Above all teach them tolerance and respect for the other. Respect for those who may not be like them. Those who don’t think like them. Don’t call them ‘paindu’ because they are different. They deserve your respect.
And why do we have to make burgers out of this class of children. We should educate them about our own culture. A culture with a rich history of great leaders, poets and thinkers. Teach them about the poetry and teachings of Bulleh Shah, Baba Farid, Faiz, Habib Jalib. Educate them about the rich music of the region. Educate them outside of their own class. Maybe perhaps even have exchange programmes with state schools. Change will never come if any movement remains restricted, especially within the middle classes. For any meaningful change it must penetrate the masses.

S. Q said...

I don’t really agree with the term ‘burger’ nor do I really understand it. It reminds me of Iqbal’s sher” firqa- bandi hai aur kahin zaatein hain/ Kya Zamanay mein panapnay key yahin batein hai”. In this Zamana we need to think Pakistan, burgers, phajay kay pay, taka tak, sushi, fettuccini all included. :)

I think personally I see our collective choice as a nation to have re-elected a man who has proven to be a thief, a sophisticated bank thief in the past as in indication of our weak moral fibre. We have taken corruption into our stride and we’ve demonstrated that we’re okay with it. This must change and the seeds of this change can only be planted in our classrooms. I would teach all the little children of this beautiful country of ours that morals and scruples are not just fanciful concepts meant for a big picture, they are meant to govern every minute of our lives. I would teach them that it is never okay to cheat on a test, that it’s better that you tell your teacher that you haven’t done your homework rather than “chappa-fy” someone else’s work. That when you cross a red- light and make it through to the other side, you’re not a hero, you didn’t have a right on that road and when you crossed that light, you took someone’s else’s right away from them. The central focus of my curriculum would be strengthening the moral fibre of our children, teaching them what it really means to be an honest insaan so that come next election, our choices are more varied and our tolerance for corruption and dishonesty is 0.
Please keep writing, I'm loving it!

Tehmina said...

Humility and empathy. Breaks my heart when I see eight-year-olds ordering about the house-help and the parents smiling benevolently on as if this is leadership training. But I suppose the only way, this dynamic will change is with economic change - when labour becomes more expensive.

shaheer said...

I see immense value in designing and teaching classes/courses that introduce the young generation to issues that our country faces. I feel our so-called burger youth does not even understand what these issues are and why they exist. If we could engage them in discussions that go beyond simple stereotyping of individuals and groups of people and focus on developing an understanding of why the the rest of the kaum thinks, feels, and acts the way it does, we may perhaps be able to reduce and address the ridiculous levels or apathy and the blind and irrational fever for one party or political leader.
I have been teaching this course called Global perspectives to A-level students - it is designed by CIE and focuses on developing critical thinking skills. One main aim is to get students to study a variety of perspectives on various global issues, deconstruct them in a sympathetic manner, before coming up with their own. We had a lot of fun discussing everything ranging from religion to culture to feminism to you name it.
If we could design a local version of such a course (that focuses on issues relevant to Pakistan) and teach it in our schools that would be so awesome. We don't need it to carry a grade or marks. Instead if we could just have kids THINK about some of the most pressing issues that we face and actually take time to UNDERSTAND why people have different perspectives on them, it would be the best education for them and the best way to prepare them as responsible voters in the next elections.