Reasons for On-Campus Extremist Behavior and Solution

Reasons for On-Campus Extremist Behavior and Solution
Published On: 30-Mar-2024

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In Pakistan it’s not uncommon for us to hear about incidents which involve students acting in a less than acceptable manner in their respective educational institutions. These incidents range from verbal slandering to all out physical altercation, which usually end up in one or more people getting hurt.

However, identifying the problem alone isn’t enough for us to be successfully rid of it, we must also identify the reasons behind it, it is only then that we find solutions that will actually stick. In order to do that we must look, not from a place of judgment but from a place of understanding. 

In Pakistan most students growing up attend schools with people from similar economic backgrounds, if you are someone who belongs to a household with below average means you will most likely attend a public or Government school with people of similar means, whereas if you belong to a household with above average means you are most likely to attend a prestigious school with people of similar backgrounds. This creates a class distinction, but is not bothersome as the two classes do not necessarily have to interact.


The problem starts in institutes of higher education where Students are exposed for the first time to people from different social and economic backgrounds. Starting at a new place is in and of itself daunting, on top of that to have to cope with increased academic pressure, tensions run high and when in this situation the students are suddenly being made to mingle with people from different backgrounds, and who have different views, ideologies, political opinions and belong to a different social or economic background, it can cause the situation tends to develop into something more explosive. The lack of any guidance counseling leaves the students without anyone to go to for advice which is completely unbiased. So of course the students continue on their self-destructive paths. Students also tend to look for ways to de-stress themselves, and not all of the methods they come up with are the most sensible and smart ones. The pressure of student life along with hormonal changes and not having a productive outlet for the ensuing emotions leads to us witnessing some of the most outrageous behaviors on campus. To an adult it may not seem like much for young people to be stuck at home, but for youngsters being stuck in one place for too long drives them stir crazy. Not having any form of extracurricular activities that one can participate in and distribute their energy, to distract themselves does not help either.


In higher education institutions when students are suddenly forced together in a setting in which they have to interact with each other in a way they haven’t previously, the students don’t always get along. In addition to being young and impulsive, being in an atmosphere that they are not entirely familiar with subconsciously agitates them. And thus every little thing is likely to set them off. If people from different backgrounds and their different lifestyles start to bother someone and they are unable to focus on anything else, they could be hostile towards them. Which when reciprocated will ensue a battle of wills.

Lack of tolerance towards those different us is and always has been the cause of many fights, and the limited exposure up until higher education does not help. In a city like Karachi it's common for people from other parts of the country to come and pursue higher education, and when such different minds clash on campus whether due to political or personal opinions the result is always quite problematic.


Students coming from different economic backgrounds often clash in higher education institutions, most students enjoy fronting which can lead to fellow students becoming either upset or angry. Sometimes it can cause a rift between the students which can later on escalate and become something more extreme. It can also breed resentment in students if they believe someone is benefitting from their superior means and backgrounds. For instance, some students have had superior education prior to being in their current institution and those who have not had the same could feel as though those students have already got an edge, or an advantage academically. This on top of the obviously more luxurious lifestyles of those students can prove to be too much for some students, causing them to be hostile towards each other. This hostility if it continues can become more aggressive over time and cause further problems.


The education system in Pakistan is entirely theoretical and very competitive which can leave students feeling on edge and the lack of any form of extracurricular activities make it so that they have no creative or physical outlet. Student life is stressful enough, on top of that rising tensions can cause angry outbursts on campus as there is no other way for them to channel it. Students need a way to let off some steam, or even just do some things that make them feel productive without the crushing pressure of academic achievements. And while it’s possible to participate in such activities outside of an educational institution there is little motivation as they wouldn’t amount to much. Without any form of extracurricular activities to distract the students they are easily pulled into situations and fights that most of the time do not even concern them.


Most educational institutes do not have any form of sports and games in their calendar. The students at most have one sports day a year which only allows them a week or two of preparation and physical activity. There is no ongoing tournament which could allow them to participate in a healthy competition under watchful eyes of the coordinators of the events. Physical activities and sports in general are an important part of student life and being deprived of them leaves the students stir crazy and more likely to engage in other risky activities. If there is nothing except for academics for students to look forward to in their student life, they are likely to create distraction for themselves, which will more than likely result in extremist behavior.


In places like Karachi we hear incidents which involve students who have had issues with their classmates devolve into all out fights that lead to someone getting hurt. Sometimes during the course of their study students develop rivalries with their fellow students, now competition like everything else is good as long as it’s in moderation, however there is no one around to make sure that these rivalries stay competitive and do not develop into something more, and so they do.

As there is little else to do due to a lack of social gatherings or activities, long standing rivalries come into play. They can be based anything from competition in studies to racial superiority. Often in colleges and universities you see the beginning of a rivalry between friends which can at times go on to develop into something more vicious.


There are very few educational institutions in Pakistan that have counseling available for their students. Students who are graduating from college often confused about their future prospects and require guidance from an unbiased point of view, other times the students are going through some problems in their lives whether personal or professional and need advice and guidance from an empathetic but outside source. If there is obvious tension between certain students which causes them to be involved in public fights time and time again, there is no professional available on campus to help them talk it out. Or if a student has a sudden drop in grades or is not participating in the same way they once used to, there is no one there to help them figure out what has changed or what has caused the sudden lack of motivation.


In Pakistan, academic success is one of the forms of success that students have to look forward to, we do not have, at most public institutions of higher education a dedicated sports platform, especially one that accounts for any extra credit, no arts, music and theater as the part of student programs, which leaves with only one option for every student, that in order to be successful they must excel in their academic education. But of course not every student I’d academically inclined, and even among the ones who are, there is a tough competition, the students who are motivated to succeed despite their lack of opportunities can hold resentment towards the students who are showered with them, which can later on develop and become more hostile.

Students who are very competitive can at times be a little too invested in rivalries, and as there is only one person who can come out on top, it can cause quite a negative reaction, and if the rivalry is a public one it can feel like a public humiliation, and as discussed there is little else to distract oneself with, so at times such students resort to aggressive or extremist behavior.


The interdiction of social media into society brought with it many positive and negative aspects, it on one hand provides the students in our country a much-needed distraction from their lives, or lack of one. It creates an illusion of a social life which as teenagers they desperately need, but sometimes it can be used in a negative way to harass or bully someone or to rally behind and attack someone online. Of course, it does not always do so, however teenagers are prone to acting out, and when their personal lives are such that they cannot do so in real life, they find a way to let their feelings out on the Internet. The idea holds its appeal due to the fact that one can maintain the illusion of anonymity and instead of having to face their problems head on, they can project them through social media onto someone else, and make it someone else’s problems. Of course, a lot of the time the reason behind such actions of teenagers is simply boredom. While the idea doesn’t always sit well with the older generations, it is in fact one of the biggest reasons for youngsters acting out, boredom is usually what starts the most fights on campus. When there are very few things that occupy students to take every little thing way too seriously, causing them to be set off by the smallest of things, and become offended by everything. So students who already have a chip on their shoulder can be set off by something so entirely insignificant.

In this day and age social media is a huge part of student life, you can very easily find Facebook pages called confessions and such where the student body participates. While the purpose of such pages is not meant to harm it can be used to do so.

I have personally witnessed such behavior and to an extent which I could not have anticipated, a close friend of mine was persistently bullied through several social platforms from classmates and despite trying everything else the matter wasn’t resolved until cybercrime was involved. That is just one example of such behavior if you were to ask around you’ll find way more instances of such behavior.


The lack of a social life can leave teenagers with a lot of built up energy and no way where to let it out, so in those situations they find other things to become involved in, but because our society only approves of very few creative, students become involved in politics, and not in way that always promises good result. The students being young and volatile sometimes use their political differences as a way of blowing off some steam. Other times they use these political differences to rally other students with them into creating a movement for their agendas. Youngsters have a lot of energy, yet they are discouraged from participating in activities that could potentially help them focus and keep them busy.


 In Pakistan if a student behaves in a way that is inappropriate for an educational institution it is rare that they will be held accountable in a way that would serve as a way of teaching them a lesson, either the institution is so strict it’ll directly terminate the student, depending on the transgression, or it will be swept under the rug. If it’s the former the student just starts over in a new institute, and it’s nothing off their skin and if it’s the latter then there is no punishment for their actions, is there? The punishments of actions that cause such harm should be such that either they teach a lesson to the student or/ and make the student very repeat such behavior.


While students are emotionally volatile there are still possible solutions to lessen the emotional outbursts and extremist behavior on campus.


One of the most assured ways to lessen students stress and the ensuing aggressive behavior is through introducing extracurricular activities that take up their time in a more productive manner and also allow them to have either a physical or creative outlet.

These extracurricular activities could include Student Government, Academic teams or clubs. There could be a debate team, culture clubs, or student newspaper. If students have activities and stories on campus which fulfill their need for activities without involving anything that is too emotionally charged, it will prevent any conflict.


Sports can play a huge role in allowing students to channel the competitive side in a way that is safe and fun. It allows students to let go of the stress they have been holding in a controlled way rather than leaving them in angry outbursts. Having an ongoing sports tournament will give the students something to look forward to even if they are not actively involved in them, it will provide them with a topic that is less serious and doesn’t rile them up as easily as the more serious topics tend to do. If students have sporting tournaments to look forward to they will be less likely to do something to jeopardize their chance to participate. O it would encourage the aggressive students to curb their aggression unless they want to sit out.


Promoting tolerance is the only way one can maintain peace, it can be done in many ways such as having a culture day where everyone can represent their own culture, or a culture club. There could be seminars that promote such messages. Students should be encouraged into activities which make them interact with each other, having theater shows, art and such that represent them.


Introducing mandatory community service and volunteer work as a way to reform students who participate in on campus aggressive behavior, and the knowledge alone of their being repercussions to such aggressive or extremist behavior will dissuade many students from participating. Community service hours make for a great reform strategy. Instead of just being suspended students should be required to complete assigned hours of community service such as volunteering hours at an orphanage, an old age home or places like Darul-Sukoon should be made necessary, which will allow the students to see that the lives they are living is one of privilege and would hopefully instill a sense of responsibility among the students. Knowledge and hearing about the less privileged of society is different from bearing witness to it, and such activities would help make the students more aware and responsible.


Student life is full of emotional and mental stress, and changing times make it difficult for different generations to communicate with each other. Each generation has their own hardships to deal with but none are willing to see the others as valid, which make it difficult for the younger generations to communicate with their elder family members, as the only answer they will get will be along the lines of “you don’t know what hardships are, In our time…we had it difficult…your life is a piece of cake in comparison” so is it any wonder that children look elsewhere for advice or even just a listener who would not judge. So having a counselor on com pus would provide the students a much needed third party advice or guidance. They also can be helpful in Deescalating matters between students, troubled students will have someone to talk to and students having trouble adjusting will have someone to talk to and students having trouble adjusting will have someone to aid them.


In order to achieve results we have to make sure that we nip the problem in the bud rather than letting it grow out of proportion. Often there are complaints that we ignore until a fight ensues, instead of doing that attempting to understand the problem and resolving the issue is the best course of action. Most often before something big happens someone sees signs of oncoming trouble but no one either takes it seriously or has any idea what to do, it should be encouraged that the students who see something boiling under the surface report it to the counselor or student affairs teacher on campus instead of ignoring it and letting it boil over.


To deal with such matters that have the potential to escalate we could have community outreach programs where people could reach out and find support, or societies that help them adjust or deal with on campus bullying or any other issue they are facing. While Ragging is not as dominant in Karachi as it once was, if someone is still dealing with such instances they could find help and support through such communities.

Social Media could be used to create and promote such outreach programs and could be helpful for those who wish to remain anonymous.

These are the solutions I believe could help curb extremist behavior on campus, and while these may not stop the truly violent of the bunch they will certainly help the students who simply need a way to let off some steam.


Disclaimer:  This essay won the National Essay award competition arranged by the Government Department of Pakistan. 

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