Two young women were expelled from a college in district Jehlum for engaging in the game ‘Blue Whale’, last week. The women were in grades 11 and 12, most likely between 16-18 years of age. The game is evidently internet based where, mostly young, people are encouraged to inflict self-harm, and often the game ends in the suicide of the player. The details of the game are quite sordid in the sense that students sign into internet accounts where messages are left for them, by the so called ‘curator’ posing assorted challenges.Most of the challenges are about anti-social behavior and self-harm. The game is perhaps amongst hundreds if not thousands of scams on the internet targeting the vulnerable, the impressionable and the alienated. The fact that two young women should engage in it is sad, but not surprising. What is outrageous are the consequences they had to face. They were both expelled from the college, under the pretext that they may influence other girls in the college.The fact that the principle of college saw it fit to penalise already fragile and vulnerable young women is testament to her poor judgment and supreme indifference to the wellbeing of the young women in her charge. In a small-town environment, the stigma that will follow the young women because of this action, can be well imagined by everyone who knows anything about the Pakistani society. But this incident is symptomatic of what is wrong with the Pakistani culture and what the educational system has to offer young people.Helping students realise their talents is the true calling of my profession. It appears that the Principal Sahiba of Government Girls Degree College, Pind Dadan Khan, has not heard of that callingThe culture demands chastity, self-abnegation, obedience and machine-like discipline from its youth. It has little sympathy for the energy, optimism, ambitions, joys and sorrows of being young. It doesn’t want young human beings, it wants robots — who will make dutiful wives, earning husbands, doctors, engineers, MBAs and nurses and care takers or bluntly — slaves. It is said that young people don’t respect elders anymore. Do elders in our culture stop to offer even a sliver of respect to the young people and their humanity? There are increasingly regrettable and reprehensive incidents of elderly abuse in our country. But those incidents pale in comparison to the physical and psychological abuse that young people suffer, resulting in mutilation of their personalities.The tales of broken dreams of young people in terms of careers and personal choices denied, or forced or pressured marriages could fill up volumes and can’t bear to be repeated here. But elders and adults too faced similar, perhaps harsher treatment from their elders and they are just passing on the favour. All of this is done in the name of doing best by one’s children or knowing, their interests better than the young people themselves could possibly know. The result is that ‘youth’ which is synonymous with dissent, flamboyance, and ingenuity is in fact, the picture of conformity, diffidence and inanity. It is little wonder that stepping on the campuses of most public universities and colleges in Pakistan I feel like I have walked into a mehfil-e-milad or a Tableeghi congregation. The point is not to advocate hands off, but a plea to listen to, and respect young people.Add on to the cultural problems for the young people with the culture of education in Pakistan. It is a colonial relic where the emphasis is on rote learning rather than nourishing imagination and dissent. It feeds trite lessons about the (fictitious) ideology of Pakistan, and the ‘correct’ religious doctrines and practices. It assumes that students are not individuals with their unique gifts but recalcitrant rascals to be molded into archetypical national and religious subjects. In this milieu, any cries for help, such as those of the young ladies of Jehlum, or affirmations of difference are deemed mortally dangerous. To be crushed and removed from the scene. I teach at an elite college in the United Kingdom. I nevertheless, maintain that my colleagues teaching secondary and high school levels are super human. To deal with the energy and hormones of young people is not for lesser mortals like me. I find my first year students challenging enough. But even in that situation, I don’t think I do anything remarkable. The young people who come under my charge are already motivated and academically inclined. The real magic is to make the less motivated and academically inclined students succeed. That is our duty of care, as teachers and academics. To expel a difficult student is easy. Helping students realise their talents is the true calling of my profession. It appears that the Principal Sahiba of Government Girls Degree College, Pind Dadan Khan, has not heard of that calling. The writer is a reader in Politics and Environment at the Department of Geography, King’s College, London. His research includes water resources, hazards and development geography. He also publishes and teaches on critical geographies of violence and terror Published in Daily Times, October 4th 2017.