Pakistan Ill-Equipped to Deal with Disease of the Mind

Part C: Problems and Solutions

The dislike for people in need of psychological treatment is so deeply woven into our culture, our home and our workplaces that it will need massive awareness raising to help overcome this issue. The problem is also of perception regarding mental illnesses. People perceive people with such problems as weak and ‘abnormal’, as in they are unable to function as normal functioning adults and that is not the case. Though I have talked about two different levels of mental illnesses and both are treated differently in different scenarios they still face disapproval from society.

To further this issue there is a  lack of awareness about the treatment available. There are not many good psychologists and psychiatrists in Pakistan. Even if there are they aren’t as popular as doctors in other fields. Furthermore, the stigma attached to someone searching for treatment for their illness along with someone pursuing psychology as their field of study further worsens the situations.

It is very easy to point out a problem than solve it or just propose some solutions to it. There is a dire need to treat mental illness like a physical disease. Diseases of mind are of equal importance. Depression and anxiety can lead to other physical ailments if not treated or managed properly. There also is dire need to build special education schools. If that is not possible then it should be made compulsory to educate the teachers and train them in firstly, identifying students who require special education and secondly, to teach them or frame the curriculum accordingly. Doctors in emergency health care also need to be trained to identify and deal with such conditions. All in all a massive awareness raising campaign should be launched.

Read Part A: Reflection of Personal Experience here.

Read Part B: The Neglected Special Needs Children here.

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Pakistan Ill-Equipped to Deal with Disease of the Mind

Part B: The Neglected Special Needs Children

As a Pakistani and someone who has been through psychological problems from 15 years of age, I can say this with certainty that Pakistan is not ready to treat mental illness at all. There is no training for the doctors or teachers who can diagnose and identify a patient suffering from mental ailment. Diagnosis is the first step to treating such a condition.

Teachers are also unable to recognize students who have learning disabilities and the sad part is that the parents themselves don’t cooperate enough to ‘see’ that their child is special. Another sad turn of events is that Pakistan also does not have sufficient number of schools to educated students of special needs.

Since I started teaching last year, I have been struggling to teach special needs students with the students who don’t need special attention. It is good that we try to treat them like normal students but it is over burdening for them emotionally, psychologically and academically because they are unable to interact and learn the way their fellow classmates can.

A teacher once said to me, “I get it that this kid has autism but that doesn’t mean he can misbehave.” I was not offended but I felt sorry for the kid who had teachers who did not understand his condition. All I said to her was that children with learning disabilities also have behavioral issues. They do not see the world like we do. That’s why they are called special needs children.

It’s not just the teachers. Most students can also notice whether a student is not acting ‘normal’ like they themselves do. A student recently exclaimed out loud in class in a very insulting manner, ‘Oh ma’am, is (named censored) abnormal?’ I stopped in my tracks and just stared at the kid because I could not believe what he had just said. The other kids avoided looking at me. Instead of scolding him I tried telling him that not everyone is the same. Some children need special attention. Some learn fast and some learn slowly. I am pretty sure I was not convincing which depresses me.

I told him to never use insulting words like ‘abnormal’ and ‘retarded’. Such derogatory terms are also one of the reasons that people are in denial and refuse to seek treatment for their illnesses.

Read Part A: Reflection of Personal Experience here.

Read Part C: Problems and Solutions here.

The Fault in Our Teaching: Part 1

Ever since I started teaching I heard many tell me that I was too friendly with the students. Never in my wildest imagination did I thought I would be told that I am ‘too friendly’ with the students. I still do not understand how my being friendly is a problem for other teachers, as long as it does not impact a child’s learning negatively, because after all that is why we are here, right?

Apparently people have a habit of confusing friendliness with leniency. I have a strong belief in maintaining balance. I am neither too friendly nor too lenient. There are boundaries that I have set. However, what the main problem teachers think is that this results in students taking ‘advantage’ of the ‘friendly’ teachers. But have we ever wondered why this is the case? Why do students feel like they can ‘use’ such teachers?Treat-others-as-you-would__quotes-by-Swedish-Proverb-90

Unfortunately, the problem with our teachers is that they have been strict for far too long. The problem arises when we as adults forget that just like adults have ego, self respect and dignity so do children. I still vividly remember how my history teacher threw my copy across the classroom floor when I got all my answers wrong in 6th grade. I was hurt. I never respected that woman. I never learned anything from her. I don’t remember anything I studied during her class but I do remember this one event. It is carved into my memory.

When teachers emotionally or physically abuse children, often children become too shallow. So when they ‘rarely’ see a ‘friendly’ teacher they assume that she is weak and will be easily manipulated to their will. Okay so now the children sound like evil villains. Remember this, bad people aren’t born they are made. The environment at home matters, no doubt about that, but the way students are treated at the school matter too. An average child spends half of his/her time awake at school.

For all the teachers holding on to grudges against children who falter at some point and do something unethical, please forgive them. Not for their sake but for your own sake. For all the teachers trying to be authoritarians, stop bullying them. Not for yourself, but for the sake of everyone involved. For all the teachers who do not admit they are wrong and feel ‘hurt’ when corrected by a student, let go of that ego. You are only teaching children to be perfectionists, which is incorrect and impractical.

I respect teachers who make mistakes, accept them and apologize. I respect teachers who are so down to earth that they consider themselves equal to the children and not superior to them. Treat your students the way you want to be treated!

2% Drop in Literacy Rate

Infographic on literacy rate

According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) carried out by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) from August 2013 to June 2014 shows a 2% drop in the overall literacy rate of Pakistan; dropping from 60% to 58% in a year despite the 2% increase in the Government spending on education. A person is literate if he or she knows how to read and write; I guess 42% of the current populations doesn’t know how to do that either. According to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, Pakistan was supposed to increase its literacy rate to 88% by 2015 and I guess we just keep falling behind on that too.

Now let us first look at how the Government merely increases a 2% budget on education. Education is what makes or breaks a nation and amazingly it is their last priority. You know what the total amount of Government spending on education is? It is merely 537.6 billion PKR. That is not enough to educate the exceedingly large population of Pakistan. And according to a recent survey, most people didn’t send their children to school because it was way too expensive.

So that was the total population, but do you even know the percentage of literate women in Pakistan? It is a mere 47%. This means that only 47% of women are literate compared to 70% of men. Why the double standards? Education is supposed to be a right for all. Let me clarify one thing before religion-haters start thinking, ‘oh, it is because of Islam.’ For your information, it is compulsory for both men and women to attain education according to Islam, so please don’t get me started on it.

Now, let’s get back to the point. The declining interest in educating ones child has a lot of reasons; one reason is that it is expensive. Other reasons have more of a cultural stigma attached to educating ones child. Moreover, this situation is going to continue to deteriorate if something is not done about it, as soon as possible. First of all, education should be centrally regulated. Secondly, the spending should be further increased and thirdly, the syllabus needs to be revised as soon as possible to save whatever is left of the country. The current Government needs to adopt effective strategies to mitigate the issue before it gets completely out of hands.