Emily in Pakistan

A Disparate Education

Feb 21, 2012

KUT News director Emily Donahue traveled through Pakistan with nine other journalists this month on a trip organized by the International Center for Journalists.

Here in Austin, the concerns over adequate and equitable K-12 education are numerous: from education funding cuts under the 82nd legislature; math, science and other curricula; whether charter schools best serve all students in a district; academic testing for state standards; bilingual education. The list of challenges facing educators, legislators, agencies, parents and students is long and complicated. 

And yet, those issues pale in comparison to the education issues facing Pakistan. The issues are so great that most Austinites probably have no frame of reference.

KUT News director Emily Donahue traveled through Pakistan with nine other reporters this month on a trip organized by the International Center for Journalists.

In my whirlwind tour of Pakistan through Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, I kept running into Austin connections. A former University of Texas Fullbright Scholar in Lahore, a Public Affairs Graduate in Karachi (who told me of a failed Longhorn bar there), several businessmen with family ties in Austin, and a school for the poor, funded by Pakistanis in Austin, and named the Austin School.

You can see a couple of photos taken along the way above.  

Photo by Emily Donahue, KUT News

KUT News director Emily Donahue traveled through Pakistan with nine other reporters this month on a trip organized by the International Center for Journalists.

In Pakistan, the poverty is breathtaking. This is a country of opposites. The rich are very rich, and the poor live in poverty unlike anything in the United States. People live by the millions – in crumbling buildings on the outskirts of cities, in tents, in windowless shacks with mud floors and cloth strung as roofs – side by side with animals; on the streets, in the parks, on garbage dumps, in canals; on dusty, empty roads, in fields. Alone and with families, among strangers, or not.

In this nation of 180 million people, with so many millions living in desperate conditions, it is the millions of children affected by this poverty that stirred my compassion and my frustration.

My first night here, I naively asked why so many children were on the streets alone in the daytime, and out, again alone, so late at night. Why aren’t they in school, I asked? Education is a complicated thing here, I was told. The system doesn’t work.

Photo by Emily Donahue, KUT News

KUT News director Emily Donahue is traveling through Pakistan with nine other reporters on a trip organized by the International Center for Journalists.

Pakistan’s modern media outlets were launched in 2002 with the establishment of PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority). Since then roughly 2,500 media licenses have been granted.

There are 85 TV channels. Twenty of them are news. The vast majority of programming is delivered by cable with no subscription fees. Everyone we’ve spoken to – from government ministers to ordinary citizens and journalists -- says the media is playing a crucial role in developing Pakistan’s democracy.  

KUT News director Emily Donahue is traveling through Pakistan with nine other reporters on a trip organized by the International Center for Journalists.

At a recent trip to the Pakistan National Heritage Museum, the journalists on our exchange program started dancing with local men and boys to the traditional music. (It is not customary for women to dance.) The event created camaraderie, much laughter, and made it into the local news. 

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