As per the scheme announced late last year — ironically, after the PTI came up with the same idea — the Punjab chief minister and the PML-N party chief, Nawaz Sharif have handed out 100,000 laptop computers to ‘talented’ students in public-sector institutions across the country.
The criterion is based on marks secured in board examinations and is intended to facilitate college and university-level students. There can be little doubt that in theory, at least, the idea is a noble one; students in our country certainly need all the help they can get. We can only hope that the merit system which is the basis of this scheme is meticulously followed in the future as well and that the nepotism we see so often is not, and will not be employed.
The image of students tapping away on laptops is certainly a pleasant one. It suggests progress, modernisation and a desire to explore. But perhaps, we need to take a more holistic view of the situation. Is it really wise to spend Rs12 billion of the taxpayers money on laptops? Instead, shouldn’t we assess what our real educational priorities are, rather than opting for decisions that garner publicity and public perception. Perhaps, we should think about the situation in our primary school classrooms across the country, where children have no desks to sit on, no fans to keep the heat away and no clean water to drink. Teacher absenteeism makes things even worse. Only when our primary-level of learning improves will we be able to turn out truly educated men and women, who are able to compete with their counterparts across the world. Hence, investing this same amount of money in the education system will bear more fruits for the longer run.
Laptops handed out to top achievers in higher education cannot work on its own. The manner in which our money is spent must therefore be carefully considered. Only when the base of the pyramid is strong can there be hope for true success. Placing boulders, no matter how attractive, atop a shaky foundation will serve little purpose as far as the final analysis goes.