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3rd June 2013, 08:03 #1
How British imperialism destroyed Punjab's education system
I read a lot about how the first step British took was to destroy the strong Islamic education system in order to break "Mughal "social fabric, the madrassa where you had as much rational sciences as well as theology (and that's why, even today, there are tons of Hindus, as its cheaper education too) but these figures concerning Punjab particularly are quite scary...
The notion that with the fall of the Sikhs in 1849 the British East India Company ushered in the `modern age` in the Punjab, especially in Lahore, is one that we need to revisit. What went wrong, and remained wrong subsequently, is a subject that we all need to reconsider.
When the Lahore Khalsa Darbar collapsed, the EIC, thanks mainly to the Lawrence brothers, set about trying to win over the Punjabis, especially the Sikhs. There was a cogent reason for this. The EIC, after a survey, discovered that education in Lahore, and the Punjab, was far superior to the education the British had introduced all over `conquered India`. In Lahore alone there were 18 formal schools for girls besides specialist schools for technical training, languages, mathematics and logic, let alone specialised schools for the three major religions, they being Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism. There were craft schools specialising in miniature painting, sketching, drafting, architecture and calligraphy.
The Company concluded that the Punjabis were years ahead in the field of education than the so-called `enlightened` Europeans. Every village in the Punjab, through the Tehsilar, had an ample supply of the Punjabi `qaida`, which was compulsory for females. Thus, almost every Punjabi woman was literate in the sense that she could read and write the `lundee` form of Gurmukhi. To overcome this, and yet keep the Punjabis `in line`, a deliberate campaign to burn all Punjabi `qaida` was planned. The events of 1857 provided them this opportunity, even though it was because of the `loyalty and sacrifices` of the Punjabis that the British regained India.
But how did the British rulers, now formally under the Crown after the EIC was dislodged after becoming bankrupt because of expense incurred in 1857, gauge the situation? Here we have an amazing book from the legendary G.W. Leitner, the founder of Government College, Lahore, and the Punjab University and undoubtedly one of the world`s greatest ever linguist, who studied `Indigenous Education in the Punjab` in amazing detail in 1882. His conclusions make much better sense today, for they were ignored by the British during the years of their rule. Not that we today care for what the great man said then, yet it seems sensible to bring the matter to our readers` attention.
In the `Introduction` to his original 1882 publication, he starts off by stating: “… in spite of the best intentions, the most public-spirited officers, and a generous Government that had the benefit of the traditions of others provinces, the true education of the Punjab was crippled, checked and nearly destroyed … our system stands convicted of worse than official failure”. The Punjab has this tradition whereby the “most unscrupulous chief, the avaricious money-lender, and even the freebooter, vied with the small land-owner in making peace with his conscience by founding schools and rewarding the learned. There is not a mosque, a temple, a dharmsala that had not a school attached to it”.
This network the British set out to destroy. In the carnage of revenge that followed 1857, the British made it a special effort to search every house of a village and to burn every book. Even in the secular schools of Lahore which used Persian or `lundee` as the medium of instruction, books formed the major bonfire than the British troops `cleansed` the area. Leitner claims that before 1857 the Punjab had an estimated computation as he called it, 330,000 pupils learning “all the sciences in Arabic and Sanskrit schools and colleges, as well as Oriental literature, Oriental law, Logic, Philosophy and Medicine were taught to the highest standard”. Leitner claimed that after the events of 1857 the Punjab, by 1880, had, again a computed estimation, just 190,000 pupils. He says an entire tradition, far superior to what Europe had to offer, was destroyed.
To explain his claim, Leitner quotes from the Punjab Administration Report for 1849-51, paragraph 377: “The Musalman schools are nearly all connected with the village mosque, where the land is rent-free … the endowments are secular and religious to support temples, mosques, schools, village-inns … more of a monastic character”. An extract of report No. 335, 6th July, 1857, reaches the conclusion: “That elementary, and sometimes high, oriental classical and vernacular education was more widespread in the Punjab before annexation than it is now”. The report concludes that the events of 1857 destroyed the huge endowments that kept this `magnificent educational system intact`.
Here an amazing table brings the assertions of Dr. Leitner to the fore in his claim that the Punjab, and especially Lahore, was better off educationally in the days of Maharajah Ranjit Singh than in the British days before 1882, when his research was published. It shows that total revenue collected by Ranjit Singh in his last years, say 1838-9 as equalling 1.85 million pounds. The British managed 1.45 million pounds. Then comes the stunner. “The Sikh ruler, as a percentage, spent more on education than the Company from the revenues collected.”
In the Lahore District report of 1860, we see that it had 576 formal schools where 4,225 scholars taught. This being the case, if Lahore had so many scholars (teachers) in the year 2010, it could again become a `first world` educational city and district. Dr. Leitner provides still more statistics. He says 41.3 per cent learn the Quran, 37.0 per cent learn Persian and Urdu, 8 per cent learn Nagri, 6.7 per cent learn Gurmukhi and 7 per cent learn Hindi or debased Nagri. “The teachers are all paid in grain by the local landlords, who also send in daily rations.” Special mention has been made of the extra amounts of grain sent to teachers in Sialkot. This probably explains the qualitative edge that Sialkot education has always maintained. Its manifestations in Iqbal and Faiz can easily be seen.
It would be of interest for us today to understand the schools of Lahore of those days. Schools opened from 7am and closed at midday. In no case was a class allowed to exceed 50 pupils. If any report of this number came forward, the `Subedar` would send soldiers to arrest the teacher for trying to `destroy the future of our children`. Imagine! Can we ever imagine such care and love today.
Inside the walled city all the schools have been described in great detail. For example the Kashmiri Bazaar Mosque School had a teacher by the name of Allah Jewaya who taught the Quran and all subjects in Arabic. The Kucha Chabaksawaran School had a teacher by the name of Muhammad Abdul Aziz who taught in Persian and Arabic. In the nearby mosque of Faizullah, the teacher was Mahmood the Eunuch, who excelled in Persian and Arabic, and taught pupils how to learn the Quran by heart. In the advanced Arabic school in the Anarkali Mosque taught Maulvi Nur Ahmed, who taught grammar, logic, Muslim law and mathematics. In Suttar Mandi School taught Pandit Gauri Shankar, who taught mathematics, logic, medicine and Puran literature.
It is very clear that Lahore in the dying days of the Lahore Khalsa Darbar and the years before 1857 had a first rate educational system that was far superior to what the British had to offer. What amazes one the most is the fact that women were more educated than men, and this, Dr. Leitner observes, is what made sure that with every passing year, the literacy rate increased. Once this stopped, it progressively declined. What we are today is for all of us to think about. My way of measuring literacy, given the bias that a journalist would have, is the number of newspapers sold every day. In Pakistan the number barely crosses one million. For a population of 180 million, this means a Functional Literacy Rate of 0.55 per cent. Need one say more? The destruction continues.
A few years ago through this column we requested the Punjab government to rename Kutchery Road – from the District Court crossing to Nila Gumbad-Anarkali crossing – as Leitner Road. A `bright` bureaucrat observed on the request “no one knows of this strange man”. Shahbaz Sharif agreed and dropped the request. I am not surprised. Luckily, he is not part of the 0.55 per cent figure, though he attended the institution Leitner founded.
Mushtaq Soofi - who openly admits his Punjabi nationalism - posted the same few days ago, Dawn too in that case ("Sethi’s gestures for the good of Punjabi")
...the rot, as far as our language is concerned, started after the annexation of the Punjab by the British in mid-nineteenth century. The British colonial administration deliberately demolished the vast network of indigenous system of education. The use of the Punjabi, the Persian and the Sanskrit was almost banned in the new European type schools set up by the colonialists where English was adopted as medium of instruction for upper class and Urdu for middle and lower classes. Soon after the demolition of old educational infra structure, Punjabis were declared illiterate and ill cultured as Dr GW Leitner, one of the most celebrated linguists and educationists, pointed out in his famous survey known as ‘A report on education in the Punjab’. According to Leitner’s findings Punjab was not only most literate in the entire subcontinent but also had the highest female literacy rate.
And that's from Hindu nationalist sources, always quoting the "History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab since Annexation and in 1882" (the article also talks of Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, ... though)
In his Report on the Punjab, Leitner names hundreds of textbooks - Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and Gurmukhi - taught in Hindu and Muhammadan schools of different grades in the Punjab. For example, text-books taught to Sikh students of Gurmukhi schools are divided into two sections: those taught to the beginners and those taught to advanced students. To the first section belonged Balopdesha, Panj Granthi, Janam Sakhi, the tenth Guru's Panj Ekadash, Bhagvat, Tulsi Ramayana, Vishnu Purana, Pingal (10 parts), Ashwa Medha, Adhyatma Ramayana, Vichara Sagar, Moksha Pantha, Surya Prakash, the sixth Guru's Guru Vilas, Vashishtha Purana, and Daswan Askandha.
This must be embarrassing to the new-style, collaborationist Sikh intellectuals.
In the Punjab, according to Leitner, "female education is to be met in all parts". According to him, the Punjabi woman has not only been "always more or less educated herself, but she has been an educator of others". He tells us that even before the annexation of the Punjab, six public schools for girls in Delhi were kept by Punjabi women.
The new rulers were understandably hostile to the indigenous system. As soon as the British took over the Punjab, the Education Report of 1858 says: "A village school left to itself is not an institution which we have any great interest in maintaining."
This hostility arose partly from a lack of imagination. To the new rulers, brought up so differently, a school was no school if it did not teach English. To such preponderant elements among them, the answer of a rare and imaginative administrator like Leitner was this: "If a collegium held, according to Hindu tradition, in the teacher's own house, is not a school; if to read and write Gurmukhi and the naharas is not to know the three or any r's, then, of course, all discussion is at an end... When, however, by school is meant an indigenous school; by a knowledge of reading and writing that of the indigenous characters; by learning or science, oriental learning and science, then indeed was education far extended when we took the Punjab than it is at present." To these who despised an indigenous school because it taught a small number of students, he answered: "If the Lahore Government College could be called a college when it had only four students, there is no reason why an indigenous school should not be called a school when it has less than ten students."
No doubt, indigenous education decayed and illiteracy increased during the British period. According to Sir Henry Lawrence, there was one school for every 1783 inhabitants of the most backward division of the Punjab at the time of annexation. But thirty years later in 1881, "there is one school of whatever sort, to every 9,028 inhabitants", according the President of the Educational Commission.
^and they did that in all parts of India!
4th June 2013, 22:49 #2ODI Debutant
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They built nice shiny railroads though!
4th June 2013, 23:39 #3
Nice read! Also to add, we then we destroyed our education once again under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto... isn't misguided nationalism great?