What will our children be doing? [Archives:2003/04/Focus]

January 27 2003

By Hassan Al-Haifi
“What is worrying you dad?” Raouf said to his father as they were eating breakfast.
“Your father was not pleased with your grades”, his mother answered trying to help her husband out in response to their son.
“But I still am the first in the class!” Raouf pointed out proudly.
“Your father never thinks in relative terms. He always looks towards the optimum.” The mother always had a knack for reading her husband’s mind.
“What optimum?”, the father was ready to speak his mind, “These days, the government has pointed out that the only optimum that exists is the amount of taxes it can bleed out of the poor citizen without giving anything back in return. Even the basic service of education is subject to distortions and inefficiency beyond description.”
“But at least we have taxation with representation”, joked Raouf.
The father was not going to buy that as he sat reading the paper and gulping down his morning coffee: “With the representation we have today in Parliament, you are better off placing your bets on a pack of monkeys looking over your government. When have you heard the government being accountable for all its inefficiencies and corruption that exists within its corridors?””But my dear, democracy is not an overnight process; it takes a few generations to get it to be ingrained within the mind set of the governed and the government”. The mother had to show that you can’t have everything all at once.
The father was now ready to give a discourse on what is eating at his mind: “Look, my dear, I cannot see where you find the excuses for the fumbling of the government so easily. There is no point in saying we have democracy, when we know that no matter how the elections come out we will still see the same faces running the show with the ‘business as usual’ attitude we have been seeing now for two generations. Just look at the education sector. We have yet to see any improvement in the most important sector that affects to only our lives, but the lives of the generations to come. Look at the optimum we are seeing in Raouf. If you ask him how many Arab states have elected Parliaments, he will tell you that they never mentioned that in his social studies class! If you ask him who invented the microscope, he will tell you that they have not had East Asian History yet! I am not asking for the optimum anymore. I am just asking for very basic fundamentals in the education system and in every sector of our uncoordinated society. Do you know how much corruption plagues the education sector? Have you ever heard Parliament discuss the reasons for this serious flaw in government services? No, the fact is that government has become a playground for opportunists to enjoy as they please, while they bleed its coffers, not worrying about facing any accountability. My dear, your son is in the first year of secondary school and he does not know who invented the microscope, and he is the first rank in his class! How can we go to sleep with such clear signs of failure in the education system?”
“But dad, I have no intention of being a bacteriologist”, reported Raouf to his disappointed father.
You probably will not make it to be a brick layer, with the educational system we have. How many children really know what they want to be? There is no clear direction that our educational system goes by to guide our children as to their future. In fact for all intents and purposes, I can say that the output of our education comes down to a few literates, who find that they cannot find anything worthwhile to read, unless they go to the internet. But then how many can afford to have such a luxury? Even those who can afford it are unable to look for the right avenues that will lay the foundations for their future. Therefore, can you please tell me what our son is going to turn out to be when he finishes his high school? Not even your hairdresser knows for sure!”