City�s elite schools say no to national anthem ( The News )

The restive Balochistan province is not the only place where the national anthem remains barred from many of its educational institutions. Several leading elite schools of Karachi have also stopped following the tradition in their morning assemblies, calling it a �waste of time and energy.�

To the utter dismay of many parents and students, several schools, including Bayview High School, the CAS and Rhodene Academy, have either abolished the singing of the national anthem altogether, or have been doing it only once a week for the past many years.

As the regulatory authorities concerned looked the other way mainly because of the influence and connections of owners of these private schools, a tradition that ruled every school of Karachi for decades has been erased.

The schools, which abandoned the tradition of the national anthem, mostly follow the Cambridge International Examination system, catering mostly to the elite, upper-middle class and middle class families.

Nadeem Islam, vice principal of Bayview High School, said that assemblies occur in his school every day, but the national anthem is sung only once a week. �It takes too long, and wastes time that can be used in the class constructively.�

He argues that celebrating the Independence Day and teaching history are enough for the students.

The answer of the principal and owner of another private school, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was more baffling. �I do not ask students to sing the national anthem: firstly, because it is in Urdu; secondly, I do not believe in national cohesion. What purpose does the national anthem serve? Students should be engaged in more meaningful activities.�

The principal�s obvious disdain for the national language and anthem underlines the fundamental crisis of Pakistan�s education system which remains divided not just on the class basis, but also on the ideological grounds.

Many students of these so-called modern liberal schools remain stranger to their own country, people, language and history, senior educationists say. Anwar Ahmed Zai, chairman Board of Intermediate Education, says that singing the national anthem has been a tradition at all the educational institutions since 1952, when Hafeez Jalandhri�s verses were finally selected from among many hundred entries.

�Not singing it (the national anthem) should definitely be discouraged,� he says. �The national anthem serves three main purposes: ownership of the country, unity and identity. These values can only be inculcated at a tender age, not when the children are old and have grown up thinking it as unnecessary.

�Forget schools, there was a time when movies in cinemas played after a collective national anthem was sung. If entertainment was followed by it, then educational activities should surely follow suit.�

Dr Muhammad Memon, director Institute of Education Development-Aga Khan University, believes that the national anthem should be �mandatory.�

�When we gather in the morning to sing the national anthem it is a commitment to serve the country. There is no second choice. We must do it every day.�

Professor Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed of the Pakistan Study Centre at Karachi University says that singing the national anthem is a general practice worldwide.

�It is a beautiful composition, and a tool we desperately need in these times to maintain national identity. Those who are against the practice should reconsider their position.�

Salman Asif Siddiqui, director Education Research and Development Centre, says: �School is the only place where a child can learn the national anthem. He might not comprehend it at that age, but the tune will stick to his head, exactly like a nursery rhyme. At a later age, he can draw context from his memory.�

�It takes three minutes to sing the national anthem. Why should it be a waste of time?� says Yasmeen Qazi, the mother of a student at one such school.

Ibrahim Muzaffar, the father of another schoolchild, is also concerned. �There are certain norms that make up collective citizenship. How else will one expect students to consider themselves patriotic Pakistanis?� he asks.

�School age is the period when students can memorise the national anthem. One cannot discard everything by calling it unnecessary,� says Fariha Sanaullah, a mother of two school-going students.

�Why destroy the beautiful tradition which we have cherished as a nation for decades?�

�If a child grows up thinking the national anthem is unnecessary, he will have the same attitude towards other things, like patriotism or building one�s country,� says Farah Khan, a young mother of a three-year-old.
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