profile
Reality bites
Advance preventive steps can yield much better results than rigorous post-dengue outbreak campaigns
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The viral dengue fever which was widely noticed in the country for the first time in 2006 has assumed epidemic proportions this year and so far there is no let up in its spread. The city of Lahore has been affected the most by this disease with smaller number of infections reported from other parts of the country, most of them located inside Punjab.
The abnormal surge in numbers is quite in line with the findings of the study conducted by Pakistani doctors titled “Dengue fever in Pakistan: Paradigm Shift.” The report will be presented in the seventh European Congress on Tropical Medicine and Internal Health to be held in Barcelona, Spain later this year. It says the emergence of new dengue virus serotype DENV-4 in 2010 lead to 50 times increase in dengue cases as compared to the figure reported in 2006.
Right now, the mass media is beaming images of the provincial chief executive heading meetings of health and district government officials. He can also be seen making surprise visits to government hospitals housing emergency dengue diagnostic and cure centres, and reprimanding officials on charges of negligence.

MOOD STREET
Earning without deserving
By Ammara Ahmad
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were a teacher-student trio, called the “gang of three” by Edward De Bono, for their contribution to human knowledge.
But as the world and Pakistan celebrated the Teacher’s Day this Monday, I couldn’t help but remember, the dozens of teachers who have taught me since the age of five. In the last twenty years, I have been to three private schools, one semi-Government college and countless tuition centres.  But honestly I can remember only a handful of teachers who were kind and out of them only two stood out for their talents. The rest were insipid at best and many of them confused “authority figures” with “authoritarian figures”. A few could even make North Korean generals blush.
I understand that discipline is a problem in a class of thirty plus but our pedagogical systems over-emphasize order, and indeed hierarchy. The teachers seem to have internalized the ancient caste system - Brahmins being the top five rank holders with everyone else following them. The failures occupy the bottom of the food chain, getting minimal attention when perhaps they need it the most - or at least be treated equally.

Town Talk
*Exhibition of four young artists’ works at Drawing Room Art Gallery till Sep 12.
Artists are Ali Asad Naqvi, Shamsuddin, Suleman Khilji and Wardah Shabbir.
*Tri-annual Young Artists Exhibition
at Nairang Art Gallery till Sep 22.
*Home Appliances & Electronic Equipment Exhibition (HAPEE) at Expo Centre Lahore till Mon, Sep 12.

review
Early exposure
Five artists, all students at NCA, recently showed their work at Alhamra in an exhibition called Open Studio, Alhamra Residency
By Ali Sultan
Three drawings, sepia tinged are normal torso-down. The suits, the bow ties, the slight posture of the lean back, show stature, an air of class. They, however, go all wrong when you see the faces. The faces are, in different stages of unrest, or is it some sort of metamorphosis? That of a fly.  Large heads, buzzing eyes.  But I, II, and III as they are called by Haider Ali have a certain hypnotic draw, because they are beautifully and with great detail etched out, they both repulse and pull the viewer and if they are any sort of comment on the sort of clawing the middle class always seems to aspire to jump into the elite bandwagon, they seem to be successful in capturing that emotion.

Word for a word
The benefits of learning a new language are endless but the ever soaring fees for the courses at various language centres is a dampener
By Rana Haider Tahir
There is a Czech proverb which says, “You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.” The importance of learning a foreign language lies in a very simple statistic showing the diversity of languages spoken around the world. If the world’s population is totaled 100 people, 17 people would speak English, 14 Spanish, 10 Bengali, 11 Hindi and 48 Mandarin Chinese.
Talking to a person in his native language does not only, as Nelson Mandela once said, help you talk to ‘his heart’ but teaches you that there are often several ways to express a concept or an idea. In the business world, it gives you an incredible edge in being able to communicate directly with your customer. It creates a relationship you could never achieve through an interpreter.

 

profile
Reality bites

The viral dengue fever which was widely noticed in the country for the first time in 2006 has assumed epidemic proportions this year and so far there is no let up in its spread. The city of Lahore has been affected the most by this disease with smaller number of infections reported from other parts of the country, most of them located inside Punjab.

The abnormal surge in numbers is quite in line with the findings of the study conducted by Pakistani doctors titled “Dengue fever in Pakistan: Paradigm Shift.” The report will be presented in the seventh European Congress on Tropical Medicine and Internal Health to be held in Barcelona, Spain later this year. It says the emergence of new dengue virus serotype DENV-4 in 2010 lead to 50 times increase in dengue cases as compared to the figure reported in 2006.

Right now, the mass media is beaming images of the provincial chief executive heading meetings of health and district government officials. He can also be seen making surprise visits to government hospitals housing emergency dengue diagnostic and cure centres, and reprimanding officials on charges of negligence.

Officials involved in the damage control exercise believe the efforts made by the Punjab CM are bearing fruit but are not as effective as they would have been if made well in time. Their excuse is that monsoon was pre-mature this time which left little time for the authorities to take pre-emptive measures. 

There are those as well who think the government gave little priority to pre-emptive measures against dengue outbreak and did not move at all during the inactive periods between cyclic eruptions of this disease. This, they think, is the period where intervention can make a difference and not after the disease has become an epidemic.

The endless spate of allegations and counter-allegations by rivals in this context leads one to think how this menace can be handled effectively and how other nations, if any, have fought it effectively.

Dr Mujahid Musa, a Lahore-based family health practitioner with interest in study of tropical diseases, believes dengue cannot be defeated without the involvement of community on the whole. He tells TNS people have to be educated on how to decimate mosquitoes and destroy their safe havens and breeding grounds inside and around their homes.

He says the mosquito which carries dengue virus, has a very limited flight range (100 to 200 meters). This means a place properly cleansed of them cannot be easily invaded by those coming from somewhere else. Dr Mujahid thinks total dependence on government authorities should be avoided as they are resource-constrained and can only supplement the efforts taken at private level.

Dr Mujahid suggests the authorities concerned should come out with a long-term plan to tackle this disease as its instance is increasing exponentially over the years. He says studies carried by global health organisations suggest increase in precipitation in tropical areas, warmer weathers and abnormal rain patterns are conducive to growth of mosquito population.

Institute of Public Health Dean Dr Yaqoob Qazi tells TNS the best time to take preventive measures against dengue is when larvae is developing.  This is the period between successive outbreaks of dengue fever. He says larvicidal activity in time helps a lot in curtailing mosquito population.

Dr Yaqoob adds the government is aware of its responsibility but the scale is such that it cannot meet the challenge alone. The community, he says, can play an important role here by giving its share. He tells TNS that the US, Malaysia, Singapore have been successful in bringing down the number of dengue cases considerably. The people there were educated on the disease and were fined heavily in case larvae were spotted at their premises. Even in India they impose Rs 500 fine for such negligence.

Dr Yaqoob holds poor solid waste management responsible for the large scale breeding of mosquitoes in the city. The authorities concerned, he says, will have to develop an effective system where solid waste is disposed off soon after it is produced. He adds the element of research is so far not there and neither is there any vaccine to combat dengue. “What we are focusing on is to make use of the already available data and information on the disease.”

During the fumigation exercise, the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) remained on the forefront but many people found it hard to reach the concerned officials. This led many to once again demand for the restoration of local government system where they could relate to the public representatives who belonged to the very area where they lived.

Mujtaba Chishti, an ex-councilor from Union Council 25 in Northern Lahore, tells TNS ordinary people are totally clueless as to who to approach for solution of their problems. They find no one from Wasa to clean sewage or district government to spray insecticide in their area. He says the coordinators appointed by PML-N in union councils have no legal authority and do not enjoy public support for being non-elected people.

“I remember I would give tough time to lazy government employees when I was a councilor. My priorities were the people of my union council however underprivileged they were.”

Mujtaba says fumigation is the responsibility chief sanitary inspectors but they are never present in their office. Secondly, he says, the spray they are using is very dangerous and resulting in the spread of chest diseases, sinuses, asthma and so on.

“They are mixing diesel in it in a large proportion which is inhaled by people. Mosquitoes on the other hand are totally safe.”

Jinnah Hospital Special Dengue Control and Surveillance Unit Coordinator Dr Mudassir Razzaq Khan also calls for immediate rigorous vector (mosquito) control measures and vaccine development to fight the disease. He is the co-author of the study report mentioned above which disapproves the traditional ways adopted by the health department authorities to control the vector which resulted in the emergence of dengue hemorrhagic fever.

 

[email protected]

 

 

MOOD STREET
Earning without deserving

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were a teacher-student trio, called the “gang of three” by Edward De Bono, for their contribution to human knowledge.

But as the world and Pakistan celebrated the Teacher’s Day this Monday, I couldn’t help but remember, the dozens of teachers who have taught me since the age of five. In the last twenty years, I have been to three private schools, one semi-Government college and countless tuition centres.  But honestly I can remember only a handful of teachers who were kind and out of them only two stood out for their talents. The rest were insipid at best and many of them confused “authority figures” with “authoritarian figures”. A few could even make North Korean generals blush.

I understand that discipline is a problem in a class of thirty plus but our pedagogical systems over-emphasize order, and indeed hierarchy. The teachers seem to have internalized the ancient caste system - Brahmins being the top five rank holders with everyone else following them. The failures occupy the bottom of the food chain, getting minimal attention when perhaps they need it the most - or at least be treated equally.

We don’t just need more formal training and intellectual talent in teachers; instead teachers need to reform the way they conceptualize students and education. Right now it is too meritocratic - merit being defined in a rather quantitative and left-brain-centric manner. Moreover, we have devised the schooling (private and government) in a manner that a significant amount of the de facto education cost is still borne by the parents. The parents have to hire multiple tutors for their children or else the grades come tumbling down - largely because our exams are designed to test rote learning, not analytical or creative abilities. The textbooks, the school curriculum, tests and exams all require supervision. Since the curriculum is so rigid and long, teachers enjoy this diffusion of responsibility and move on from those who cannot cope.

In the west, teaching is considered more prestigious because the pay is respectable if not great and teaching even the youngest students would require serious diplomas and practical training. Teaching is considered a lifelong profession. More importantly, teachers are told to push every student without hurting their self-esteem. In Pakistan, most of my teachers were females, waiting to get married or with children studying in the same schools. For many of them, teaching was the last resort to kill time till before they got back to a “real career” or of course home-making. This adversely affected their dedication and performance, very rarely did a teacher own the failure of its students, like they prided in their success.

Every teacher, no matter how mediocre, considered themselves to be a potentate who deserved unconditional reverence. But they didn’t offer the same respect to their students, especially those whom they perceive as “losers” (I often fell in this category), bullying them, passing under-the-belt comments and retaining a bias when checking a paper. 

This made progress harder. They probably told - and continue to tell - themselves that these kids should study more and its their fault that they don’t. Sometimes we are lazy indeed, but sometimes we are genuinely in trouble. My only issue with the brilliant movie Tare Zameen Per was that it had a dyslexic child with a nerve-transmission problem, whereas perfectly normal kids can become just as lost in class and teachers need to understand them more. In Class 5 geometry, I was a zombie. The teacher noticing this, started asking me questions. Several months of classes, with me being asked five or six questions and standing there clueless for the rest of the class. She probably thought that this negative reinforcement would make me study harder. In any case, she obviously liked that feel of being the master of the class and overlooked my robotic embarrassment. But I genuinely never understood geometry and still don’t. Same was the case in with my A levels’ Chemistry teacher, who not only asked me all the questions but also picked on me regularly and pestered me to leave the subject - which I ultimately did.

Teachers in college were part of a bigger game. They were more qualified, career women, with more funding and power. This just attracted more boot-lickers, blackmailing and nepotism. There were exceptions because you are a certified adult in college and teachers either become friendly or respect your talents. Since there were marks for class participation, the freedom of speech barrier was often lifted.  

But during those years I was forced to question how much respect these teachers deserved, if any. Just because someone is an elder, parent, teacher or more knowledgeable shouldn’t mean we have to respect them. I obviously didn’t howl at anyone on the blackboard but I didn’t respect most of them either. They don’t just need to outsmart but also have an inherent value and understanding of us.

There are teachers I miss. My English teacher in 10th who wore sarees and discussed Virginia Wolf with us, my arts teacher in 3rd, whose zest for colors inspired me forever. My patient Physics teacher in class 9th and finally my English teacher in A levels who has improved me as a person forever.

 

 

Town Talk

*Exhibition of four young artists’ works at Drawing Room Art Gallery till Sep 12.

Artists are Ali Asad Naqvi, Shamsuddin, Suleman Khilji and Wardah Shabbir.

*Tri-annual Young Artists Exhibition

at Nairang Art Gallery till Sep 22.

*Home Appliances & Electronic Equipment Exhibition (HAPEE) at Expo Centre Lahore till Mon, Sep 12.

*Weekend Cycle Ride to start today at 5:00pm

from Zakir Tikka Restaurant,

Sarwar Road, Lahore Cantt.

Three drawings, sepia tinged are normal torso-down. The suits, the bow ties, the slight posture of the lean back, show stature, an air of class. They, however, go all wrong when you see the faces. The faces are, in different stages of unrest, or is it some sort of metamorphosis? That of a fly.  Large heads, buzzing eyes.  But I, II, and III as they are called by Haider Ali have a certain hypnotic draw, because they are beautifully and with great detail etched out, they both repulse and pull the viewer and if they are any sort of comment on the sort of clawing the middle class always seems to aspire to jump into the elite bandwagon, they seem to be successful in capturing that emotion.

But there seems to be, little sense, if any hanging I, II, III and Disorder and Order together.  Grouping large formats with smaller formats always seems to be a mistake, I, II, III are medium sized, all three are 69x 53 cm whereas Disorder and Order, Anum Lasharie’s series of five photographs, are really small (21x31 each) not to mention that Julius John’s Skeletons I and III, Ink on Paper which are very large 408x284 and 336x240 respectively float above the hall entrance. The point of going through the sizes is that the whole gamut of going from medium to large, to small has to be very carefully thought out, if not then the eye disorients itself and the work diminishes.

Coming back to Disorder and Order, Lasharie’s photographs are of a close-up of an all orange-tinged sink drain, a bulb switched on, filament showing a red bedcover with a pair of glasses and the photographs are as boring as the descriptions that describe them. There is no constant unease in the photographs, neither are they banal examples of urban life, it seems Lasharie has not seen much of other photographers’ work and it shows, because if anything photographs have a certain voice running through them but sadly Disorder and Order does not.

Uzair Ahmed’s work are a mixed bag, while all of it commented on the world after 9/11 both Divided we stand, together we fall I and II, looked like colourful collage editorials right out of magazines, with mullahs and  electricity wires mulling around for space and made little impact, box under seen this, done that. But his digital print I look like Johnny Depp, I look like Christian Bale, Mein lagda waan afsar Shafique werga, Mein aan Chaudhary Ashfaq werga is certainly interesting. 40 photographs, one after the other, some of famous Hollywood stars, some of normal people, some of bearded men, look at the viewer, but as the eyes wander on and on the faces start disappearing until one is left with an outline, a shadow.  I look like Johnny Depp… take on our own identities is even a stronger one, that with the very nature of our tug-and-pull identity, we end up actually with no identities.

Zahrah Ehsan’s A Dream Within a Dream I, II and III hung together, three panels, a large horizontal plane with blue clouds and a gold frame, the cloud lifting like a curtain revealing a black and white pattern, a very small square purple box with a window showing the same pattern and a long thin panel on the left side with a third window. A Dream Within a Dream I, II and III, if looked from far away, it had certain parts of it very shoddily painted and the whole aura of it becoming some sort of a dream does come crashing down because of the crass workmanship of craft.

Julius John’s large Skeletons I and III, Ink on paper which were pinned way up on the walls of the hall, lay mostly jumbled. Only Skeletons II which was displayed upstairs and at eye-level enabled the viewer to clearly decipher any of the rubble and the buildings etched out in black ink on a grand scale.  His painting The Last Supper, a figurative painting of an old man sitting at a table lit very gently by a lamp perhaps having his last dinner, hence the title, is arresting. It’s interesting to note that perhaps The Last Supper may not be an excellent work of art, not to say that it isn’t a well made one, but it does prove the power of paint, the very texture of it, as a medium still has on us.

Last but not least, one could not really understand the fact why are students, the ones enrolled in an institution, having an exhibition in the first place? And even if they are, why are they selling the artwork? The whole idea was supposed to be that students are students because it takes a certain amount of time to learn the craft, to accumulate and refine one’s ideas into some sort of practice. The idea of students holding exhibitions and selling their art may be beneficial in preparing them to deal with galleries and art dealers and collectors in the long run, but it doesn’t really seem to be helping them in the fact that the art they are displaying is half-baked in many respects. 

 

Word for a word

There is a Czech proverb which says, “You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.” The importance of learning a foreign language lies in a very simple statistic showing the diversity of languages spoken around the world. If the world’s population is totaled 100 people, 17 people would speak English, 14 Spanish, 10 Bengali, 11 Hindi and 48 Mandarin Chinese.

Talking to a person in his native language does not only, as Nelson Mandela once said, help you talk to ‘his heart’ but teaches you that there are often several ways to express a concept or an idea. In the business world, it gives you an incredible edge in being able to communicate directly with your customer. It creates a relationship you could never achieve through an interpreter.

Over the decades the language centres of Pakistan have done credible work in giving courses of different languages and thus helping people conduct business and study abroad. But the French, Chinese and German classes which were free of cost at a time are too expensive today, charging up to five hundred rupees for one-hour tuition. For instance, the Goethe Institute at Scotch Corner which boasts of providing the best German language courses charges 5000 rupees for a daily class over a period of barely two weeks. The Director of Resource Department, Ahmed Faisal, at Annemarie-Schimmel-Haus says, “We will help you learn the standard German spoken in Germany today. A client can set his own pace of learning and decide whether to learn on an intensive basis or to spread his learning over a longer period”. They also take examinations which help students test their language skills.

Following its lead, other language centres have also sprung up in Lahore. Berlitz for example, provides quality education in numerous languages, promising to give results in limited time but charging a hefty amount in the course. Established in Pakistan in 2001, Berlitz Pakistan has now become a network with three centres in Karachi and Lahore. The team at Berlitz’s Lahore centre claims to have skilled over 3000 students and professionals to improve their communication skills and ‘speak a second language just like they speak their first one’. It also offers foreign-study programmes to help their students to reach personal, academic or professional language goals. The centre provides the citizens of Lahore , as their Project Director says, “ the opportunity to unlock the power of language”. The languages taught include English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Urdu, Japanese and Arabic. In addition to giving language instructions it also provides interpretation and translation services.

Along with these institutes the National University of Modern Languages, which has branches in nearly all the major cities of Pakistan teaches many languages that have never been offered before in the country. The list ranges from Pashto to Balkanese. The NUML staff in Lahore says, “A good number of people come to learn English while the rest of the languages attract around ten students each. There are people of all ages and backgrounds learning languages here but those who come to learn Chinese are almost always professionals.”

NUML, an internationally recognised university, famous for the diversity and quality of the language courses and programmes that it offers, recently came into limelight when it was chosen by the Confucius Institute to select Pakistani students for a Chinese language course in China. This summer, with the help and finance of the Chinese Government, it organised a camp of about hundred students from various schools all around Pakistan. NUML itself has departments of over two dozen languages.

In the opinion of their Chinese staff the most effective way of getting to know a language is to visit a country where it is spoken. When you study a language abroad for a week or several months, you are immersed in the language and culture for every minute of the day. It is a fascinating and productive experience and improves your diction, fluency and style. To top it all you may even pick up an accent!

No one can deny that learning new languages has its benefits .The learning centres employ native-fluent instructors for teaching. This approach, they opine, is the natural way to learn a language. While focusing on real-life business and social scenarios they offer personal attention which helps you gain confidence in the new language. The benefits of learning a new language are endless but those aspiring and wishing to learn these new languages are disappointed at the ever soaring prices of the courses at the various language centres.

 

(The writer is an A-Levels student at Aitchison College.)

[email protected]

 

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