Stand Up for Justice


By Rayed Afzal – Teachers’ trainer and homeschooling father

You might have skipped it the last time, but if you ever get a chance to look at the pictures or the video footage of the first million march that was held to restore the Supreme Court of Pakistan, then look out for five girls catching candies from the trucks full of lawyers on the Murree road of Rawalpindi.

That was near the end of our geography cum history, cum sociology lesson. Did I say lesson? Well, if you bear in mind for a moment that the twelve-hundred-kilometre-long journey we took in our Honda City was part of our five daughters’ education, then it surely was a lesson worth remembering.

It was an exciting time. My late father would have nothing else to discuss at the dinner table, except for the role a strong judiciary plays in the wellbeing of a society. Our five daughters listened to him diligently.

On some days you teach children, while on others you learn from them. It was after dinner. The million march was still a week ahead, and, as usual, dad was going nonstop talking about the merits of a free judiciary, when suddenly, out of nowhere, Safia, then aged twelve, asked: “So, Grandpa, what are you going to do about it?”

The time froze at that moment, as everyone in our living room, sitting or lying leisurely, just got up and started looking at each other. I let the silence rule for a few minutes and then announced: “Let’s go for the Million March!” The girls got up and rushed to pack, without realizing that the departure was still a week away.

We left Karachi early morning. Our first stop was Nawabshah. The car was packed with essentials, foods and books. The family friends in Nawabshah offered us the traditional Sindhi hospitality. The most interesting were the local dignitaries, who were invited for dinner – they wanted to know why we thought restoring judiciary was so important that we were taking up a 1200-kilometre-journey for that purpose.

My five girls listened attentively, while forming some opinions of their own, without uttering anything. The meeting adjourned late and then we all hit the beds for our next part of the journey to Multan. Along the way, the girls learned a few things about banana plantations, sugar mills and cotton fields. We made it a point to stop occasionally to explore such unique experiences as dates drying, cotton picking, etc.

Multan was no different from the previous stop. Hoards of people at my sister-in-law’s house were amazed to see five young girls making a journey just to show their commitment to a cause. Next morning, it was all the way to Rawalpindi, with a stopover at Khewra salt mines. The semi dried terrain of Sindh and rural Punjab were replaced first by green fields of central Punjab and then by the mountains.

We reached Rawalpindi a day before the big day. The next morning, my daughters got up with zeal, knowing that it might be midnight, before they will be able to return home. Each one of us was responsible for arranging a personal potable water bottle, candy bars, caps and reading materials. At nine, the ‘warriors’ came out of the home, all ready to be part of a historical event.

We reached the Constitution Avenue pretty early. Since there was not much to do, we went around sight seeing. “This is where the chief justice belongs,” I remember Grandpa pointing at the Supreme Court building and telling the girls. “And this is where we will make sure he comes,” I remember Maria, then eleven, adding with full conviction. Around lunch time, the excitement was running high – we couldn’t wait for the caravans of people from all walks of life to reach the destination. While taking the last bites of his lunch, Grandpa came up with an idea: “What if we head back to Rawalpindi and meet the carvan at Murree road. We would be the first to welcome them into the twin cities.”

That was an excellent idea. All of us jumped back into the car and headed back to Pindi. The road going towards Pindi was deserted – not a soul was on the road. Once on the Murree Road, we parked the car almost in the middle of the road and waited for the caravans to appear from the opposite direction. For the next two hours, we sat in the car reading, taking a nap or just taking a stroll on the deserted road, while occasionally looking south, hoping to be the first to announce the coming of the caravans.

If there’s ever a silence before the storm, then we surely felt it that day. In the midst of this silence, finally, we could see the trucks moving slowly in our direction. As the caravan got near, the rumbling of trucks was taken over by the chanting of thousands: “Justice Tere Janisar Bay Shumar Bay Shumar” (“Chief Justice, your loyal supporters are numerous!”). The first truck passing us by was so excited to be ‘welcomed’ by five young girls that they threw their flags, banners, fruit juices and toffees at them. That really excited the sisters. They grabbed the flags, got on top of our Honda and waved vigorously. The youngest one (finding no place on the roof) felt at ease on my shoulders, only to come down occasionally to grab candies thrown at her.

The flow of energy between the five girls, who had waited a good six hours for the caravans to reach, and the lawyers, who were on the truck for the last twelve hours, was amazing. My role was reduced to a person introducing people of any significance, passing us by at a distance. Every person wanted the girls to respond to his or her chanting, or catch a candy thrown by him or her. The whole caravan took three hours to cross from start to finish, and my daughters welcomed each one of them, standing the whole time.

Heat, excitement, thrill and learning – it was surely a package deal that day. As a matter of fact, the whole experience has turned much of the typical syllabus books of social studies into a pleasure reading. Girls can relate much of what they read about Pakistan to this particular journey. But more than anything, they have learned to stand up for justice: a learning that’s worth more than what they will learn in a lifetime!

The writer’s research work can be accessed on

The Case for Home-schooling

Vol 4-Issue 3 Home-schoolingDid you know that school is optional? Yes, indeed it is! Although this might sound bizarre to our minds, but only because we have been pre-programmed to think the opposite. As soon as our child has learned to walk and talk, we see sending him off to school as a logical part of his development. Being well-meaning parents aware of the responsibilities conferred upon us by Allah (swt), we look around for that special Alma Mater, to which we feel safe to entrust our offspring. That’s the way our society works nowadays, isn’t it?

Or is it really? Do we really have to feel ‘fine’ about sending that two-and-a-half-year-old child out on a cold winter morning without long pants, just because shorts is the only acceptable uniform at school? And what about the over-crowded classrooms? Incompetent teachers? And skyrocketing school fees? Of course, not always is the scenario so grave, and I do not intend to talk about the badness of the schooling system or undermine the validity of education as such. My aim is to invite you, as parents, to consider the benefits your children and you might reap by opening your minds to a possible alternative – home-based education or, in other words, home-schooling.

In his book “How Children Learn,” John Holt (1927-1985), a leading American educational and social critic, offers meaningful insights into the delicate and unique ways young children acquire knowledge about the surrounding world:

The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental. He does not merely observe the world around him. He does not shut himself off from the strange, complicated world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. To find out how reality works, he works on it. He is bold. He is not afraid of making mistakes. And he is patient. He can tolerate an extraordinary amount of uncertainty, confusion, ignorance, and suspense… School is not a place that gives much time or opportunity, or reward for this kind of thinking and learning.

It is before they get to school that children are likely to do their best learning. (…) I believe, and try to show here, that in most situations our minds work best, when we use them in a certain way, and that young children tend to learn better than grownups (and better than they themselves will when they are older), because they use their minds in a special way. In short, children have a style of learning that fits their condition, and which they use naturally and will until we train them out of it. We like to say that we send children to school to teach them to think. What we do, all too often, is to teach them to think badly, to give up a natural and powerful way of thinking in favour of a method that does not work well for them and that we rarely use ourselves.

If we have felt confident enough about teaching to our child such essential skills as walking and talking, then why do we all of a sudden feel obliged to hand over our offspring to the schooling system for his further education? Aren’t we, as parents, more aware of their abilities and learning styles than the class-teacher, who has to attend to the needs of more than a dozen at once?


Every child is special in his own way, and often the schooling system tends to become a melting-pot which strips him of his natural inquisitiveness and love for learning. How? Well, by forcing over-seasoned with fact textbooks prepared by wise grownups down his throat. How can he possibly develop into a socially-responsible individual with a well-rounded personality? Why don’t we, as parents, claim our right to being the most important people in the life of our child?

Allah (swt) has ordained us to seek knowledge throughout our lives but has not put on us any restrictions regarding the ways and means it should be done (with the exception of getting involved in Haram, of course). However, Islam does single out parents, especially the mother, as the one responsible for good upbringing of the child.

Home-based education and caring family involvement give the child numerous benefits. Parents have the opportunity to create a unique curriculum for their child, focusing on the areas of his interests and emphasizing the Islamic aspect of every subject. Lessons can easily be adapted to the learning speed of the child, slowing down or speeding up, when necessary. No classroom stress, no bullying, no peer-pressure. If the child ‘calls in sick’ some morning, the day can quickly turn into a crafts project or any other activity your child particularly enjoys.

The time children spend with us, parents, is very short, if we compare it to the years they will spend on their own in the world of grownups. This short time is our opportunity to give them our best for enabling them to make the right choices to further their lives.

It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn Umar (rta) that the Prophet (sa) said: “Beware, every one of you is a shepherd and every one is answerable with regard to his flock. (…) A man is a guardian over the members of his family and shall be questioned about them (as to how he looked after their physical and moral well-being). A woman is a guardian over the household of her husband and his children and shall be questioned about them (as to how she managed the household and brought up the children). (…) Beware, every one of you is a guardian and every one of you shall be questioned with regard to his trust.” (Muslim)

“What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” (George Bernard Shaw)