Life

SOCIETY: DEGREES OF SEPARATION

Mr.Kaash completed his master’s degree at Harvard University with a Fulbright scholarship. He also received the joint selective scholarship of graduates of the World Bank of Japan awarded to only eight candidates from around the world each year.

But for young Kaash, the son of a carpenter who lives in Gilgit, Harvard was far away. As a child, Kaash climbed a rocky hill every day to go to school in the village of Danyore, in Gilgit. The small Urdu middle school sat on the top of the hill. “It had only two classrooms, a veranda, a small staff room, and no restroom,” says Kaash. “The students would defecate outdoors, behind an old three-wall shack probably built to shelter animals.” There were also no water facilities. “We would walk to the bottom of the hill where we would have freshwater flowing from the mighty Rakaposhi.”

None of his parents had received a formal education. However, they realized its importance. It was a scholarship program that opened the doors of educational opportunities for your child and made life come true that they could only have dreamed of.

Scholarship students continue to face discrimination and often struggle to integrate into elite universities. Does access to elite education really guarantee social mobility for the disadvantaged or does it simply perpetuate class disparities?

While the needs-based scholarship programs fully funded by elite private colleges/universities provide bright and successful young people like Kaash the opportunity to realize their potential, for many poor young people suddenly finding themselves living among the privileged is never easy.

Kaash still remembers the summer of 2005 when he first addressed Lahore to one of the main private institutions in the country to attend the orientation for scholarship students. It was like a 10-day training camp during summer vacations, only a few incoming students were called to attend to familiarize themselves with the rest of the students they would meet when the fall semester began.

“That program was well organized academically,” says Kaash, who graduated from the Dean’s Honor List. “However, there was little thought about how well these students could integrate into a new social culture, a culture that was only a few degrees away for everyone who belonged to the city, but for those of us who came from the villages. the separation was multiple. ”

Fully-funded scholarship programs offer a life that could not have been possible if there were financial restrictions. But, are these academics seen as equals by their peers who have lived the city life and study in elite colleges and renowned universities?

Life on the university campus continues to reflect larger social values ​​that are perpetuated unconsciously or consciously. Equal opportunities, in theory, do not always translate into equal opportunities in practice. Kaash felt this sharply while studying at private institutions in Pakistan. Quality university education is intended to transform people not only through academics but through experiences and interactions that make them complete personalities, but what happens when those experiences are restricted only to some?

“Private universities are a bubble in which anyone with a disadvantaged background can see what privilege means,” says Kaash. “Pakistan is a society where need-based scholarships are undervalued because most students know that scholarship student is the poorest of the poor. Many of these students cannot speak English, and even when they do, their accent is not so Americanized. Urdu is not their mother tongue, they probably grew up speaking a third language as their mother tongue. They don’t wear branded clothes and, in addition to this, they perform well academically, making things more competitive for their classmates. ”

Sami Hussain was born in Balochistan. Growing up, he moved through multiple locations across the country due to his father’s employment. He ended up at a cadet university, but there he changed his mind about joining the army and instead completed his FSc from the University of Government College, Lahore. This is where he first learned about a scholarship program to study at an elite private university in Lahore. Sami says that he and many of his classmates felt “altercated” in a subtle way. The scholarship students developed friendships from the beginning due to the orientation since they related to each other in certain things.

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“It was very difficult to make friends,” says Sami. “Once you are labeled as a scholarship student, everyone knows that you come from disadvantaged families and that determines your social position in the student body. Not everyone belittled us, but some people did and that created some unpleasant experiences. Sometimes there was discrimination in societies and clubs. A friend of mine was an aspiring singer but never found a guitarist to play with. The people who dominated the Music Society at that time felt that their kind of music might not be so great. ”

Sami feels that class and social mobility are inextricably linked, although social mobility is more difficult to achieve. “We [the students of an FSc fund] were always the executioners and not the thinkers. This is the biggest obstacle in terms of social and class mobility, ”he says.

Kaash believes that this is the reason why the privileged class feels uncomfortable with this race. “But fortunately, not all elite students think that way,” he says. “There are people who encourage him and tell him that winning a scholarship is much more difficult than showing his parents’ wealth and, in any case, a scholarship is something to be proud of. As much as I would like to have more people from this last type than the first in my university, the reality could be different. In fact, it was a challenge to integrate ourselves socially with a society that continually repelled us. ”

Sami reports that, during his first year at the university, a debate provoked an email on campus, when a group of students began sending mass emails demanding that the administration reduce the number of scholarship students instead of increasing the rate. Many students shared their anger towards the fellows. Self-financing students began to pressure the administration to reduce scholarships based on needs instead of increasing the rate.

Can access to an “equal” platform to access quality education be sufficient to achieve a change in mentality and society? Do elite private institutions play their role in breaking the lines of the social hierarchy or are they only microcosms of society in general that perpetuate social inequality?

“We were still new back then, so we really didn’t know how to express our concerns,” says Sami. “The administration tried to explain to the student body that the money for need-based scholarships did not come from the fees of self-funded students. However, I still feel that the larger student body was not convinced by the administration’s arguments. It was a very uncomfortable experience to be passive recipients of guilt like that. ”

When he entered college, he felt especially that a part of the general disconnect between students who financed themselves and those who had a scholarship was based on differences in educational education. According to him, unlike students with a level A background, students with a background of FSc were less well versed in reading, comprehension, and criticism.

“I feel that one of the biggest problems facing the majority of students from middle-class families studying in elite schools is the language barrier,” says Sami, an ethnic Baluch. “In Pakistan, we have a class that speaks English and sees it as a vehicle to understand the world. I agree that it allows you to read certain types of literature and theory that can broaden your perspective. But having a non-native language as a determinant of social prestige in school settings is very problematic. It prevents people from expressing what they really feel, ”he explains.

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Sami feels that class and social mobility are inextricably linked, through social mobility it is more difficult to achieve. “We [the students of an FSc fund] were always the executioners and not the thinkers. This is the biggest obstacle in terms of social and class mobility, ”he says.

Similarly, Kaash also feels that cultural mobility is something that takes time to achieve, and the regressive attitudes of all groups in society make the process even more difficult.

“For such a form of social mobility, an academic degree from a prestigious institution does not matter, but exposure to diverse cultures and people around the world makes mobility possible. If you have spent the first 18 years of your life where male dominance was a norm rather than the exception, then only a degree in gender studies will not change that perspective that has leaked into your subconscious. You need to be immersed in a culture where men and women are equal, for opportunities and resources, ”says Kaash.

Gender identity adds another layer of social discrimination to an already marginalized group. Sumaira Farhan talks about her particular experience as a woman with a conservative background who made her way into the great world through accessible opportunities for higher education. Farhan was born in a town near Gujjar Khan and moved to Rawalpindi with his family when he was in fifth grade. Then, when she joined a private university in a scholarship program, the challenges were even more complex depending on her position as a woman. He had to improvise and adapt his social skills to make the most of his time in college.

“Very soon, I felt mocked in many ways,” she says. “I would strive to be part of a conversation. I had decided that I would learn to laugh at myself if it gave me access to certain types of social circles. But I had no real friends who knew the real challenges I faced. “Farhan’s biggest fear was being alone. He had had some really strange experiences with people he thought were his friends.” To be honest, he broke my soul “Everyone used to make fun of me all the time, so I thought it was normal. However, I would respond with a cheerful comment and take it easy. My main goal was to get a good grade point average (GPA) and have a good time.” says Farhan.

Farhan, who now works as a manager in an accounting firm in the United States, was one of the first girls to be included in a private university under this fully-funded scholarship program.

Entering a new world through university life and educational opportunities can distinguish you not only from your classmates but also from those at home. As he adapts to a changed environment, people see him as a different person as he further exercises his independence of thought. But social class here also complicates your identity.

Farhan, now divorced, feels that this kingdom impacted her more because of her gender.

“I come from an environment where dating was considered a vice,” says Farhan. Marriage is organized by family and that is all. So, even when I was in love, I never thought it was good enough for them. Then, after graduating from an elite liberal institution, the first problem was that it was still not the typical “material of the Pakistani wife.” Some people considered that my education, ability to win and opinions were an attractive feature, but then they left when they saw my social class. ”

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Despite her qualifications, Farhan says that one of the main causes of her divorce was the attitude that her ex-husband (a Pakistani based in the United States) harbored toward her socioeconomic class. “He pointed his fingers at every little thing in my family and in me,” he shares. “I worked hard to be part of the family, but it was never enough.” In such cases, quality education does not act as an equalizer.

Despite being free of many rigid traditional norms based on gender segregation, many private institutions continue to reinforce class boundaries. Sometimes, although people can form friendships, it is rare for those friendships to translate into meaningful and lasting romantic relationships.

Sami shares how, coming from segregated schools, it is difficult for people to learn to interact with the opposite sex, so dating becomes a remote possibility. “In Pakistan, due to the culture of arranged marriages, we cannot experience how it feels to be in the company of the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life,” he says. “It’s not that we didn’t want to go out during college years, but we just didn’t know the nuances of this type of activity.” It was for the first time that we felt we were alone. I ended up moving to Europe at age 20, where it was easier for me to meet different types of people. It took me a long time to realize and then understand the type of person I want to date. ”

The assumption behind the theory of providing quality education for all is that this will translate into social equality for marital and professional perspectives. But access to competitive jobs, especially, not only depends on being a graduate of a famous institution. Social capital is considered key in terms not only of access to better employment opportunities but also of future growth.

“I started teaching economics at Beaconhouse School after I graduated,” says Farhan. “It was a low point for me. I felt that there was a bit of elitist culture in the labor market in general. I learned about a three-year training program with large accounting firms in the USA. UU., Where you are a full-time employee while completing an accounting certification. The selection process was very difficult but I was able to join them. My brother and my extended family were not happy at the time, but now they are proud of me, “adds Farhan, who ended up seeking employment abroad.

Can access to an “equal” platform to access quality education be sufficient to achieve a change in mentality and society? Do elite private institutions play their role in breaking the lines of the social hierarchy? Or are they just microcosms of society in general that perpetuate social inequality?

Comparing with his peers who were not in scholarship programs, Sami feels that if he inherits a social network, he automatically has an advantage and education cannot always achieve it.

“Education plays an important role in social mobility,” says Sami. “It changes your way of thinking and gives you many tools. The opportunity, however, is something different. To obtain lucrative opportunities, you must have a certain type of network and take some time to form it. It takes even longer for students like us. “

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