Meet Zubair Torwali

by research ~ March 28th, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized.

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Zubair works for Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT) or Institute for education. They are an organisation that seeks peace and harmony by revitalising the moribund culture and languages in north Pakistan especially in the conflict laden Swat Valley.

“Quail coos and the nightingale sings. / Each in its own language. / Punjabi is the language of your mothers and fathers.” 
Babu Rajab Ali, 1894-1979 (Punjabi poet)

Zubair’s work:

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Zubair and his organisation strive to preserve and promote the indigenous cultures and languages of Pakistan. They promote dialogues between the communities and tribes for a peaceful resolution to conflicts that arise from land and resources distribution; and also the complications of human rights violations connected with family honour.

They also try to promote a critical thinking among the youth to encourage them to think twice on what they are being taught in textbooks by the religious extremists and conservative elements in the society.

However they avoid working directly on the issues related with the war on terror as it is too political and related to the great game in the region. But they do work, particularly the CEO of IBT, on issues in all the English dailies in Pakistan trying to deconstruct the discourse evolved from the war on terror and the Taliban phenomenon as many in Pakistan hold this paramount and hence become prone to indoctrination.

One of the ways they are working to preserve indigenous languages in pakistan is they designed and started a programme  in the Torwali speaking community in Bahrain Swat. The programme is called mother tongue based multilingual education. It was established in 2008 and has by now 150 students. It is a pre-primary school programme for two years.

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Here the students start their education in their native language exclusively for a year. After getting literacy in the mother tongue, the learners are transitioned to Urdu. At a specific stage in the second year, the learner is further bridged to English first orally and later on its literacy begins. Besides the languages, other subjects such as Maths, Science, Ethics et al are also taught in the mother tongue. A two track pedagogical system is applied with emphasis both on ‘accuracy’ and ‘meaning’, in other words on skills and critical thinking. In the planning stage a ‘Language Progression Plan’ is designed clearly indicating which language is to be started when, how, how much and at what stage.

Zubair’s comments on UK action

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Zubair stated that despite UK-AID and DFID generously contributing to the education sector in Pakistan their main focus is still the urbanite elite and only a small chunk goes to the rural areas in Pakistan which are most prone to terrorism and extremism.

He believes the UK needs to spend more on projects focused on quality education–an education which can bring a paradigm shift in the educated. It is known this is very difficult in a society infused with hatred and ‘Westophobia’ but UK can do that by establishing institutions which can promote quality education and also add to the peace-building ventures by the Pakistani society.

Another approach to the peace-building and inter-ethnic harmony is promoting the linguistic and cultural diversity with harmony. The British Council in Pakistan, the DFID and UKAid also need to focus the promotion of cultures and languages of the linguistic minorities and ethnic groups.


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