The annual Awards Ceremony of Edwardes College featured a challenging and inspiring speech by Prof. Imtiaz Gilani, Vice Chancellor of the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar. He spoke extemporaneously, not from notes or a text, and from the heart with passion about the needs of Pakistan. I took notes on a piece of paper, so what appears below are excerpts of his talk from my notes. Read and be inspired:
When I was Education Minister this province I visited a village school in Mansera, and there the children were, seated on a mud floor doing their best with the scraps of paper that they were given to work with. These are our children, not children of a lesser god.
There is a world out there that is much bigger than some of you students here at Edwardes are aware of. When we go about the city in our air-conditioned cars, children come to our windows begging for a few coins. These are our children.
Unless we open the door of opportunity to all the children of Pakistan, this island of opportunity, Edwardes College, and all other islands like it are under threat. Some of us already travel in bullet-proof cars.
There are many reasons for the problems of Pakistan, but the major one is that the education system is not performing well. Just go to Google and look up the percentages of GDP that nations devote to public education. You will find that Pakistan is 3rd or 4th from the bottom, spending less than 1.5% of GDP on public education. Bangladesh, Nepal and, of course, India all spend more, as of course do many nations in the West.
This is absolutely shameful! If we increase this investment Pakistan will take off toward the skies. When there is inadequate investment there is no return. This war can only be won through education, and that means education in the public sector.
We live with the wounds of history.
I myself was very privileged, beginning with going to St. Joseph?s Convent School in Kohat, and so it went through high school, college and university, having the opportunity as well to study at Rutgers in the United States. With all that privilege, I feel I must pay back.
Everyone says that education is the solution to Pakistan?s problems. We hire experts, hold workshops and devise policies, but we lack the will to do the easiest thing to cure the malaise. The clock of life revolves around children?s education ? the daily routine of so many families, the reasons they choose to live where they do ? it all revolves around education.
But we are blind when it comes to public policy. We have a non-productive educational system because we want it so. It serves us to have an uneducated population. Education for everyone, but not for servants and tillers of the soil.
It is not that our education system has failed. It has passed, but only for the elite.
Students, I hope you do better than we have done.
Principal Dr Titus suggested that you be thankful for your families, but I say not only for your families but also for this institution, for this province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and for this unfortunate country of Pakistan.
It is easy for us to criticize our country, but it is the only country we have. It is like your mother ? you may wish your mother was this or that, but your mother is the only mother you have, and where would you be without her?
This country has islands of excellence, and Edwardes College is one of them. You have had the privilege of studying here. Now it is your turn to pay back, to open the doors of opportunity for those who have not had the opportunity you have had here.
? Canon Dr Titus Presler, Principal, 5 May 2013