Pakistan's Rasoolpur Village is 100% Literate and Crime-Free
Pakistan's sensational media coverage projects only the dark side of the country with a constant stream of news stories of militancy, illiteracy and deprivation. But BBC Urdu took a road less traveled and found a small village of Rasoolpur in the Punjab which demolishes some of the worst stereotypes of the country.
Here's how BBC describes it:
دور دراز علاقوں سے ایک تو خبر ہی مشکل سے آتی ہے۔آتی بھی ہے تو اکثر بری خبر ہی ہوتي ہے۔ شايد سی لیے رسول پور جیسے گاؤں، 99 فیصد شرح خواندگی اور زیرو جرائم کا ریکارڈ رکھنے کے باوجود سنسنسی زدہ میڈیا کے لیے خبر کا درجہ نہیں رکھتے۔۔
Translation: News from remote areas of Pakistan does not easily reach the urban press but when it does, any good news like 100% literacy and zero crime in Rasoolpur village is discarded by the sensational media as not newsworthy.Rasoolpur is a village with a population of just 2000. Most of its residents are ethnic Baloch whose ancestors migrated from Pakistan's Balochistan province to Southern Punjab. It is located in Rajanpur district in the Seraiki speaking region. Its literacy rate is near 100%. The United Nations defines literacy as the ability to sign one's name. But Rasoolpuris hold themselves to a much higher standard; they have all their children finish high school.
There are no children out of school. It is crime-free. It is clean. There are two high schools, one for the girls and other for the boys.
Here's a BBC Urdu video about Rasoolpur village:
travelog rasoolpur. from sharjil baloch on Vimeo.
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Here are some excepts from the World Bank report:
Unfortunately, although more children are in school, the region still has a major learning challenge in that the children are not acquiring basic skills. For example, only 50 percent of grade 3 students in Punjab, Pakistan, have a complete grasp of grade 1 mathematics (Andrabi et al. 2007). In India, on a test of reading comprehension administered to grade 5 students across the country, only 46 percent were able to correctly identify the cause of an event, and only a third of the students could compute the difference between two decimal numbers (NCERT 2011). Another recent study found that about 43 percent of grade 8 students could not solve a simple division problem. Even recognition of two-digit numbers, supposed to be taught in grade 2, is often not achieved until grade 4 or 5 (Pratham 2011). In Bangladesh, only 25 percent of fifth-grade students have mastered Bangla and 33 percent have mastered the mathematics competencies specified in the national curriculum (World Bank 2013). In the current environment, there is little evidence that learning outcomes will improve by simply increasing school inputs in a business-as-usual manner (Muralidharan and Zieleniak 2012).
In rural Pakistan, the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) 2011 assessment suggests, arithmetic competency is very low in absolute terms. For instance, only 37 percent of grade 5 students can divide three-digit numbers by a single-digit number (and only 27 percent in India); and 28 percent of grade 8 students cannot perform simple division. Unlike in rural India, however, in rural Pakistan recognition of two-digit numbers is widespread by grade 3 (SAFED 2012). The Learning and Educational Achievement in Punjab Schools (LEAPS) survey—a 2003 assessment of 12,000 children in grade 3 in the province—also found that children were performing significantly below curricular standards (Andrabi et al. 2007). Most could not answer simple math questions, and many children finished grade 3 unable to perform mathematical operations covered in the grade 1 curriculum. A 2009 assessment of 40,000 grade 4 students in the province of Sindh similarly found that while 74 percent of students could add two numbers, only 49 percent could subtract two numbers (PEACE 2010).
PASSU, Pakistan—Sajid Alvi is excited. He just got a grant to study in Sweden.
“My Ph.D. is about friction in turbo jet engines,” Alvi says. “I will work on developing new aerospace materials—real geeky stuff!”
Alvi’s relatives have come to bid him farewell as he prepares to leave his mountain village and study in a new country, some 3,000 miles away.
“We will see you again,” one of them says as they hang out in the potato field in front of Alvi’s house. “You know you won’t get far with a long beard like that. You look like Taliban!”
Alvi, dressed in low-hanging shorts and a Yankees cap, is far from a fundamentalist: He’s Wakhi, part of an ethnic group with Persian origins. And like everyone else here, he is Ismaili—a follower of a moderate branch of Islam whose imam is the Aga Khan, currently residing in France. There are 15 million Ismailis around the world, and 20,000 live here in the Gojal region of northern Pakistan.
I’ve been visiting Gojal for 17 years, and I’ve watched as lives like Alvi’s have become more common here. Surrounded by the mighty Karakoram Range, the Ismailis here have long been relatively isolated, seeing tourists but little else of global events. But now, an improved highway and the arrival of mobile phones have let the outside world in, bringing new lifestyles and opportunities: Children grow up and head off to university, fashions change, and technology reshapes tradition. Gojal has adjusted to all of this, surprising me every time I return by showing me just how adaptable traditions can be.
With these photos, I hope to add nuance to our understanding of Pakistan, a country many Westerners associate with terrorism or violence. People have suffered from this reputation, and many feel helpless in trying to change it. The Pakistan I’ve seen is different from that popular perception. I returned there this summer with my family and focused my attention on a young and forward-thinking community in Gojal, a place I know well.
I first came here in the summer of 1999. I was 25 and my girlfriend and I bought one-way tickets to Pakistan. We were looking for inspiring treks (the Karakoram Range has the highest concentration of peaks taller than 8,000 meters). Back then, we were among the roughly 100,000 foreign tourists to visit northern Pakistan each year.
We stayed for months, opening new passes, learning the language, and exploring the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Pamir. I kept returning, but over the years, I saw the number of fellow hikers plunge. The tourism department now records only a few thousand foreign visitors each year.
“Following the terrible September 11th attacks, anyone involved in tourism had to sell their jeeps or hotels; no tourists dared to come here anymore,” says Karim Jan, a local tour guide.
With each return visit, I noticed other changes. While outsiders were rare, the improved Karakoram Highway, now able to host vehicles other than Jeeps and 4x4s, brought in local tourists from south Pakistan, and southern cities became more accessible to the Wakhi.
Young men and women began leaving to study in these cities, and they came back for summer holiday dressed in new, hip fashions. Shops multiplied along the road, selling new spices, sugary snacks, and sodas. Biryani rice, a favorite dish from Punjab, now often replaces the traditional turnip soup or buckwheat pancakes during celebrations.
But despite what I’ve seen change on the surface, the spirit of Gojal is very much the same.
Posted by Sabine te Braake | Dec 8, 2018 |
Name: Tufail Shahzad
Country of origin: Pakistan
Work: Naval architect and innovation manager at MasterShip Netherlands
We meet Tufail at restaurant De Restauratie at the Eindhoven train station. He lives in Helmond and takes the train to Eindhoven daily and on the day of the interview, he has to attend a lecture at the Technical University of Eindhoven. “Next to my job, I’m also studying Artificial Intelligence & Innovation Management at the university because I need more information about it for my current project at MasterShip.” Tufail’s curiosity in all kinds of subjects prevails in the stories he tells about his journey of the last couple of years. “I like to be challenged and always want to try new things.”
Tufail was raised in a small Pakistani village called Dajal: a small union council of one of the most underdeveloped districts in Pakistan. His older brothers studied elsewhere in Pakistan and his parents hoped Tufail would stay home with them. “But that didn’t happen. When I was 17 years old I wanted to move to China to enroll in a program in Aerospace Engineering at Northwestern Polytechnical University. My parents and grandfather were against it. They were afraid I wouldn’t return home any more. Once you know how to fly, you don’t go back in the cage again. In the end, they let me leave to after they understood I really wanted to study there. I had never spent a night without my parents and was kind of lazy because as the youngest I didn’t have to do a lot at home. So that was an excellent base to live on my own in a different country,” Tufail says with a grin.
Those first months I had a hard time connecting to my new surroundings. The turning point was a family homestay in JiuJiang JiangXi. I was welcomed in a Chinese family where I learned more about the culture and learned to speak Chinese. I stayed with them for 40 days. I also got lots of love from the family and they treated me as their own son. Today, I’m still in contact with them.”
“I graduated this year in February and I tried to find a job. I got a lot of rejections due to having no work experience in the industry. I went back to Pakistan because when you get rejected all the time, it’s better to be with your family. I kept applying for jobs. I found a wonderful job opening at MasterShip, but they were looking for someone with 5 to 10 years of work experience. I wasn’t on that level yet but I got in contact with them. They liked my resume and we had a Skype conversation. Later they told me there wasn’t a position for me yet, but they would like to stay in touch for some future openings. Later I went to Dubai for a job interview, which went well, and when I was waiting on the airport to go home, I got an email from the CEO of MasterShip: he wanted me to lead an artificial intelligence project, a very big challenge for me and the company. Everything about it was new to me and again a new challenge even in the shipbuilding industry. When I came home, my family asked how Dubai was. ‘Good, but I’m going to Europe again’ was my answer. And that’s how I ended up in Eindhoven.”
After the all the arrangements were made, Tufail moved to Eindhoven in October 2018. “I recently moved to Helmond, but eventually I would like to live in Eindhoven again. I’m still settling in at my apartment. I also want to get to know Eindhoven better and also have more of a social life. I have to manage my time well so I can go to events of the Hub for expats or something. I also want to learn Dutch so I can make contact more easily and I also think it shows respect for the country where you live when you speak the language. Eindhoven is the place I once dreamed about but didn’t know yet. I’m really happy here.”
Tando Soomro, a small town located some 15 kilometers from the Tando Allahyar city of Sindh, is a versatile and model village which is the abode of different qualities and a magnificent beauty.
‘Tando’ is a prefix used in the names of many cities and towns of Sindh, for example, Tando Muhammad Khan, and Tando Allahyar. Historically, there has been a lot of debate; some researchers believe that the word has been derived from Sindhi word ‘taando’ that means ‘ash’, while others believe that ‘tando(s)’ were the cantonments of Talpur rulers.
As I stepped in the village, I witnessed a large boundary wall of some 10-feet in height covering a vast area. “Our village is secured by a boundary wall from two sides with private security check posts at the entrance of the village and one needs to confirm his identity and the purpose of his visit before entering,” my host and resident of the village Ghulam Akbar Rojhani explained.
We followed our friend’s vehicle through the wide, clean and cemented streets of the village. One of the things that amazed me was that most of the sewerage system was underground and had a grill on it.
Thanks to the education and unity among villagers and most of the affairs of the village are run by the committee. Many of the residents are well-known agriculturists and some are even serving on important posts in Pakistan as well as abroad. These villagers are encouraged to make voluntary contributions in the village committee fund for the provision of facilities in village-like spending on education, health unit, streets, playgrounds, and sewerage.
The committee appointed by villagers is further divided into different sub-committees for education, health, sports, and security. These sub-committees look after the domain. To ensure transparency, an annual meeting of the committee is held where progress report is shared with villagers along with a record of collections and spending.
While visiting different streets, one can see small homes of laborers and farmers, as well as the bungalows of landlords. They are all availing the same basic facilities. Though a majority of the village population belongs to Nizamani community, it is also home to many other castes and tribes. There is peace among Muslims and Hindus without any discrimination. This village is united and multicultural at the same time.
Literacy ratio of the village is better than many other villages and towns of rural Pakistan. Many youngsters of the area are serving in the private as well as government sector after completing their basic education from this very village and higher education from some of the top universities of Pakistan.
By Dr Ayesha RazzaqueMay 22, 2022
Last year saw the publication of ‘Womansplaining – Navigating Activism, Politics and Modernity in Pakistan,’ a book edited by Federal Minister Sherry Rehman to which I was able to contribute a chapter. It connected education with women’s rights and argued that indigenous movements like the Aurat March should focus on education as a core part of their agenda.
Detractors of Pakistan’s women’s rights movement have been taking potshots at it by claiming that the issues it raises are not the issues of ‘real’ (read: rural) women. Put aside for a minute the fact that Pakistan’s rural population now accounts for 62 per cent, down from 72 per cent in 1980, and is on a steady decline. While the numbers may differ, and women’s power to negotiate may differ, rural and urban women share basic challenges and better education can yield similar opportunities and improvements in life circumstances.
Indigenous progressive and women’s rights movements have adopted the cause of education as an agenda item but should make it front and center, specifically K-12 education for girls in rural areas. New data further substantiates that connection with numbers. Education up to the higher secondary level, just the education that rural schools offer today, is the enabler that brings increased women’s labour force participation, delayed first marriage, lower rates of consanguinity, increased income, increased spousal income, and is a contributing factor to greater freedom of movement and communication – all positives.
Studies exploring the relationships between levels of education and life circumstances around the world are plentiful and capture the situation at a point and place in time. The Learning and Educational Achievements in Pakistan Schools (LEAPS) programme is qualitatively different because it already spans a period of almost two decades. The LEAPS programme has been tracking lower- and middle-income households in 120 randomly selected villages across three districts in rural Punjab since 2003. It has been revisiting them since then, most recently for the sixth time in 2018, roughly once every three years. That makes it one of the largest and longest panels of households in lower- and middle-income countries. This study is also unique as it looks at return on investment in education beyond an individual’s income and looks into the possible spillover into life circumstances and quality-of-life which is especially interesting for those interested in women empowerment and feminist movements.
In this latest round it surveyed 2006 women now aged 20-30. All these women were from the same 120 birth villages and have been tracked to their marital homes within or outside the village if they have married, migrated or moved for any other reason. Preliminary descriptive results of the long-running LEAPS study tell interesting stories. The headline finding of LEAPS investigators is that Pakistan is in the midst of a ‘generational shift’ where, for the first time in its education history, we have a ‘critical mass of moderately educated women’.
In this generation only 18.7 per cent of rural women are without an education, down from 75.5 per cent from their mothers’ generation. Nearly 50 per cent have an education ranging from a primary to secondary education, up from just 20 per cent in the previous generation. A stunning 22.9 per cent have a higher secondary or above education, up from an almost nothing 0.3 per cent in their previous generation.
Existing plans, at least in the domain of education, remain unguided by some of the very excellent evidence that is available. Meanwhile, the Planning Commission is organizing a ‘Turnaround Pakistan’ conference perhaps as early as May 28 to conduct national consultations. Whether a hurriedly thrown together conference can change the way business is done remains to be seen.