A colleague of mine was visibly disturbed other day. "What's wrong?" I asked. "Well", he said; "my ten-year-old daughter who is a good artist and paints well, presented a picture to her teacher. The teacher looked at it and said 'who did this?' My daughter replied that she did it herself", said the man. "I don't believe you", the teacher responded in a huff.
The teacher insisted that the girl sit and draw the picture again in front of her. The young girl this time drew a better picture, much to the annoyance of her teacher. "Are you taking art lessons?" She asked. "No", replied the girl, shaken somewhat by her ordeal. The father of the girl asked, "Why don't teachers exhibit understanding, compassion and care?"
"Well", I replied, "because they lack it and many of the teachers in the Gulf don't know the basic elements of teaching".
My memory went back over a decade and a half to a time when a relative told me how her son was humiliated in class by the teacher. "You donkey, you stupid boy, you will never amount to anything." The poor boy was terrified. The teacher did not even bother to investigate why the boy could not read or write properly.
The mother took her son out of the school and took him to London. There it was discovered he had dyslexia and remedial measures were taken. The boy was given the proper supervision, graduated from school, went to one of the top universities in the U.S. and obtained his Master degree. Today he is a happy young man with a friendly disposition and runs his own business. "I shudder to think would have become of me had I stayed in that school with those nasty teachers." he said to me.
Thinking of all this, I too shudder and get nervous about the number of capable, intelligent young students in our schools who, with proper guidance by qualified teachers, would shine.
How much talent has been buried because of indifference and apathy? Who is to blame for all this? It is time for both parents and educators to sit together and see that the hidden talents of the young are allowed to blossom.
The world has changed a great deal in the last several years. These dramatic changes have had a great and dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.
It is still, I believe, a grim illusion to pretend that the world is a nice place. Mankind has developed beyond our ancestors' dreams and yet we can revert to barbarity in seconds. It is foolish to forget we are animals as well as humans, and as animals we have savage instincts. What makes the human race great is its ability to lift itself above its animal instincts.
That is why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is so important. It is a statement of aims which the human race should aspire to. Islam and other religions have given mankind a moral base for centuries. Human rights move such generous and noble aspirations into the world of day-to-day politics.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke recently at the annual meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights, listing the human rights which are applicable to any society, whatever its culture: "All people share a desire to live free from the horrors of violence, famine, disease, torture and discrimination." He was speaking in a world where genocide is still practiced, starvation is rife, disease claims many lives, torture is regularly used as means of interrogation, and discrimination abounds.
One of the most difficult aspect of human rights is that they require moral judgment to be made on sovereign governments. They involve the subservience of national sovereignty to world-wide aspirations. But this is also, at the same time, the most exciting thing about human rights. It is correct to judge the evil, uncaring, or deliberately callous governments against the best aspirations of our race.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it is an opportunity to review how adherence to the Declaration can be encouraged and at times enforced.