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Book 2 | Some Thoughts on The Problems Of Okhai Memon Community

 

FounderSome Thoughts on The Problems Of Okhai Memon Community

By Mohammad Usman Kath

RECENTLY it has been observed that some interest and awareness is being shown in the understanding of some of the problems that the Okhai Memon Community is confronted with, in Karachi. This is a desirable development and therefore I venture to put forward before you some thoughts on issues in the hope that our attention is focused on those underlying maladies from which our community suffers, so that we may be able to evolve steps which will ameliorate the life of the community as a whole. I am fully aware of my limitations both in knowledge and in the field of social service, and I make no claim whatsoever that by presenting these views, I am attempting to suggest a panacea for the enormous social problems of our community. I am making this clear because at times in our community, judgments are passed easily and summarily. I say that we are faced with such and such problem; some people may say that it is easy to present the problems and difficult to solve them and that no one comes forward to do something about it. Such remarks may be correct, but I would like to emphasize forcefully that proper awareness and analysis of the problems of the community and for that matter any problem in human life are not only important but a pre-requisite for any solution. It is like diagnosing an ailment in human body before suggesting a medicine. A doctor gives more time in diagnosis of the disease than in making out a prescription. It goes true for a social ailment.

Okhai Memon Jamaat is the oldest and largest Memon Community in Pakistan. At the same time, it is considered as backward in economic, educational and cultural fields. Although we are running some charitable institutions and schools, no sensible person would deny that our progress in social upliftment has been very slow and insignificant compared to some of the other progressive Memon Jamaats. In a community of about thirty thousand people, we can count on fingers the families who have made some notable economic and cultural progress after the creation of Pakistan. We have a tiny progressive upper middle class, while the bulk of the society comprises of lower middle class and a vast majority of poor people. This is a bird’s eye-view of the Okhai Jamaat and let us swallow this bitter truth.

Amongst the problems that we are facing, I would only touch the important ones which to my mind are: (a) Education, (b) Health, (c) Economic Position, (d) Family Planning and (e) Social Customs and Traditions.

(a) Education
Except a very few families, there is generally no awareness of the importance of education to be found in our community. Most of us still consider education in terms of “Bhanter” which means to read and write. It will be completely wrong to say that education means only to make an individual read and write. That would mean only basic literacy. Education is a much deeper and significant process, which aims at liberating and developing those qualities in an individual, which help him to embark upon a life successfully according to his own aptitude. Literacy* of course forms an important factor in the educational process, but this can certainly not be termed as the sole aim of education. Unfortunately in our community even the literacy rate is very low and strangely enough, most of the children are brought up in an atmosphere of either inadequate education or complete ignorance. One strong reason why we lag behind in education, is that unfortunately many of our elders have still not woke up from the slumber of the past. The times have changed; the world forges ahead. Even in Pakistan things are moving up in terrific speed and it sounds odd that in the city of Karachi where modern business and professions have come up, one can still find people who are completely oblivious to this modern activity.

Why should we be concerned about education? It can be answered very simply. That the life – a good life – has become almost impossible to live without education. I would say that it has become an economic necessity to educate oneself. There is of course tremendous urbanization going on in our cities, but even the villages are undergoing unprecedented changes. The mechanism has entered the farm as well, and mechanism demands knowledge of the modern tools. The demand of knowledge and skills is everywhere. Whether you are in business, industry, services, armed forces or farming, you are expected to possess adequate knowledge of your subject. You simply cannot get into these spheres of life without education.

In our community, we have five schools and no full-fledge college of our own. It is difficult to get full statistics of the Okhai students studying in these schools, but it is estimated that the large majority is of non-Okhais. In the absence of correct information, it is not possible to present concrete figures (incidentally it will be a great service, if some one could undertake to collect various information and compile statistics of our educational position).

But if one were to work on the estimates, it is believed that there are more than ten thousand children ranging from 5 to 20 years of age in our community who should be studying in some schools. Out of these, hardly half acquire primary education. Even according to the report released by Okhai Memon Madrassah Association, the total number of students studying in nine schools operating under the Association’s auspices comes to about 3000. Not all of these students are Okhai. When one works out the number of girls students, the figures will be almost negligible. The number of Matriculate girls is extremely low and perhaps one can count them by names. The girls who have acquired post-matriculate education are almost none and I wonder if we have any girl in our community who holds even a Bachelor’s degree in Arts or Science. The bulk of our girls even now pass about 20 years of their life in the same manner as it used to be about 100 years ago. The primary object of the parents is to bring up their girls to a marriageable age so ___(some words missing, will advise)______ religious instruction, which is normally very elementary and scanty. We do not have a Lady Doctor. There cannot be any darker picture of ignorance, illiteracy and backwardness of the women-folk than the one we have in our community.

There is one real explosive problem coming up in our Okhai Memon Community. That is the question of marriage of the young educated Okhai Memon. In our better-placed families, some modern educated young people have now been brought up. They have become conscious of the modern times and society and mix with the young people of other better developed and cultured communities. These young people come face to face with the trends of the modern world and begin to cherish the desire of rising up in the society and building for themselves a better home and a better place in it. When they look for their life-mates in our community, they are disappointed. It is difficult for them to choose life partners who would prove suitable wives. This is because the girls in our community are not educated and cultured enough. Let us face the facts, the bitter facts. The facts may be annoying, but these are the real problems. In whatever manner our community is being developed, it is going lop-sided. One part – the male section – is trying to come up educationally and culturally while the other section – the female one – is not making any head-way. In time to come, it will be a big problem for the parents to find suitable marriageable boys for their girls. It is the problem that other communities have faced in similar circumstances. It is time to rise, wake up and popularize education in the fair-sex. It is time to develop the sense of maintaining and promoting the education of child health, so that they may grow into healthy citizens, capable of developing mixing with other modern communities in Pakistan.

As far as the education of the male members is concerned, there has been some awareness and progress. But here also the picture is not so bright. We still can count the number of matriculates we have in our community and I am sure we can list the meager Okhai Memons having passed Bachelor degrees. It is strange that in our rapidly developing country we do not have many Okhais holding technical posts in the industries. Although our community happens to be the oldest and biggest in Karachi, the share of our people in the services both in the business and industry is extremely low.

According to Government estimates, the present annual output in the country of matriculates is 80,000 and that of degree holders is 24,000. Upto 1970, the projected requirements of matriculates and degree-holders will be about 1.18 million and about 23 lacks respectively. Looking at these figures, we can very well evaluate our present and expected share in this huge requirement. One fact stands out clear: we have before us both a challenge and an opportunity to absorb our youth in the country’s fast development work. Now is upto us to realize the potentiality and avail of these opportunities.

Unless our elders and parents, particularly those young men who have married recently, show real concern about the importance of education, the future will be dark and dismal. We do not have to go very far in comparing ourselves with other communities.

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