What about the govt schools? | 7m Sindhi children out of school

Many government schools in Karachi which were quite effective only a decade ago have enormously declined in standard
Karachi, Feb 02: It is painful to observe how the government education system is managed in our country. Many government schools in Karachi which were quite effective only a decade ago have enormously declined in standard.

The school I attended until 1990 was a government school, quite reputable in those times. Many of the children coming from middleclass homes attended it and we stood fairly in comparison to known private-school children, which were also not so many in those days. Unfortunately, the same school now presents a very sorry picture.

I visited my school a few years back and was stunned to see the dismal its building and even the teachers and students were in. If this government school, located in the central part of Karachi, has decayed to this extent, imagine the state of government schools in the suburbs and rural areas throughout Pakistan.

As part of my research responsibilities, I have visited government schools in Karachi's suburbs, rural Sindh and the rural Northern Areas too. Many government high schools have huge buildings, which are most often used to a minimum. One school that I visited in Karachi's suburb occupied a huge piece of land, a big ground in the middle and rows of rooms all around it. On talking to the teachers I realised that this school which looked like a single building actually houses as many as four or five schools at a given time under some weird government arrangements - bad governance indeed.

It is worth pondering on the causes of the continued downfall of our government education system. It can be traced back to the inefficient governance, faulty recruitment system, lack of professional development opportunities, corruption and politicisation of the system, poor material and resources, etc.

The problems are numerous and some prominent educationists like Dr Shahid Siddiqui and Dr Tariq Rahman have highlighted them quite amicably in their books and articles. So instead of exploring the causes, I want to ponder upon the following questions: Can government schools and our public schooling system be improved? And more importantly, why should we attempt to restore government schools rather than popularising private provision?

Why not just do away with the government schools, after all the recent education census showed that around 33 per cent of our education provision is in the hands of private institutions. First and foremost, it is because the private system works on market principles and only moves to places where profits can be made - a "corporate model" of education according to Dr Shahid Siddiqui.

My critique of private schools is directed only towards the private-for-profit sector here and not towards the private-not-for-profit. NGOs can lend a helping hand to poor segments that cannot afford private education. However, it would be unwise to believe that they can compensate for a very large population below or near the poverty line, mostly in the rural areas.

To measure the enormity of the task, according to the official statistics available at the Ministry of Education's website, there were 137,751 primary, 14,982 middle and 9,110 high schools in the public sector of Pakistan in 2005-2006, majority of them in rural areas. Governed by market rules, the private provision can not be an equitable system. An increase in private provision would worsen the already existing "educational apartheid" as demonstrated by Dr Tariq Rahman in his book Denizens of Alien Worlds.

It is the constitutional responsibility of our government to provide equitable education to all members of society and we should hold our government accountable for it. Rabea Malik in a recent research report prepared under a DFID project estimates that we need Rs426,092 million to fulfil Education for All targets. Given that it is an investment in the future of the country, is it too much to ask?

In his article in this newspaper on (Nov 30, 2008) Shehzad Roy vividly pointed out the fact that the state alone has the means to provide education to all its citizens, what it lacks is the political will. He rightly noticed that despite their commendable efforts, NGOs and not-for-profit-private provisions cannot compensate for state provision. It would be prudent if they try and harness their efforts alongside the government system, support it and also make the state accountable for its basic constitutional responsibilities. Private provisions should only be available as a matter of choice, not compulsion. The declining quality of government schools are leaving parents with no option but to turn to private provisions.

I believe that the government education system can be improved with some honest leadership. We need to revitalise our political commitment towards education that was abundant at the time of independence. The first education conference occurring within three months after independence despite myriad settlement challenges shows leadership commitment. The conference, addressed by the Quaid, showed the political will at the highest level. The first education minister Fazlur Rahman was also very keen on developing our education system on strong footings. We need a renewed commitment from the top leadership as was shown by our founders. I have come across brilliant government teachers with high hopes, carrying out marvellous efforts but getting frustrated on the way. So all is not bad but they need encouragement and continuous support before it gets too late.

Our government can hold all-party conferences when it comes to foreign threats. We pass joint resolutions in the parliament against foreign aggression. Why can't we have a collective parliamentary decision to improve our education system and refrain from political interference within the education sector? Depoliticisation of the education system is also one of the important recommendations in the recently-issued White Paper by the Ministry of Education. The 1998 education policy had the same recommendations. I suspect our elite rulers are not bothered to improve the situation of mass education perhaps because bad government schools do not affect them directly.

The middle classes also do not seem passionate about this issue as they can still acquire better education through private schooling. Amidst this scenario, the poor segments of our society see no opportunity for improving their future which can come through quality education. Our poorly managed education system is one of the major causes of our society's radicalisation. The elite cannot stay inside their castles with such prevalent injustices. Equitable educational provision for all is good for the whole society at large.

Is there any cure? Apart from the government, what should be done by NGOs to make it happen? NGOs should not only limit their efforts for educational provision but also hold the state accountable for its commitment to provide reasonable education for all. There have been laudable efforts by NGOs in the shape of the Pakistan Coalition for Education and Campaign for Quality Education. The need is to activate it and to keep it going.

In addition, and most importantly, there is a role for each one of us in this connection. For example the alumni of government schools owe a payback to their alma mater. Upon my return from the UK, I intend to gather the alumni of the school that I came from and try for its improvement in whatever way that I can. So could many others who have good memories of their schools. -By Sajid Ali. The writer is a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh, UK. - sajjidali@gmail.com (Dawn)

Schooling still a distant dream for 7m Sindhi children: Sharmila
Karachi: A slim, energetic and fragile but committed young lady in Sindh government is all-out to resolve those thorny issues in which her male counterparts may think many times before indulging. But adviser to Chief Minister Sindh, Sharmila Farooqui, does not hesitate to reach the spot, listen problems and resolve them quickly.

She strongly believes in getting the issues identified and believes the wastage of funds would only hamper growth in a democratic set up. She believes that there should be transparency. Noticing the deteriorating education system in Sindh, she said that nearly 50 per cent of the total child population, aged 5-15 years, were still not going to school. And 70 per cent of girls in rural Sindh had never attended the schools.

She said that a comprehensive report on the ruined educational system in Sindh had been prepared by the Reform Support Unit and a complete survey had been conducted all over the Sindh. She noticed each and every mess prevailing in the education system and reported in the reforms report to address the problems.

She regretted that according to the reforms report, 3.8 million children are out of schools in rural Sindh and this number is doubled in urban Sindh.

She further said that Sindh education sector was currently facing the challenges that less than 50 per cent of children enrolled for complete primary schooling. Less than 50 per cent of rural girls who completed primary schooling continue their middle school.

Sharmila observed that after hectic efforts the provincial government has identified the problems in education sector and according to the Sindh education reform programme, a mid term reform programme has been perceived targeting issues of access, quality and governance. The reform programme would be supported by World Bank Credit and European Commission Education Grant and Technical Assistance. She believes that schooling and education is must for a girl-child and hence she should not be treated as a domain of liability.

Sharmila lays emphasis on women empowerment and equal representation. With issues of massive corruption that has taken toll of the City in the recent past, she believes that she can do all that within the given time frame to make a difference. The Nation

Your Comments
"When you have leaders of vision they have a plan for development and nation cooperate with them.Greedy leaders think first of money-making and national interest afterwards.The spend 10percent energy on creating a problem and 90perdent on solving of self created problems.Get new LEADERSHIP with democratic means."
Name: Azam Siddiqui
Email: as7397@telus.net
City, Country: Edmonton,Canada

"I studied in govt school and now my younger brothers, sisters, son and a daughter are studying. I feel that the standard of our (sindh)education is declining day by day. The sole reason behind this is that our govt is not recruiting teachers on merit."
Name: zawar
Email: nslovetogher@yahoo.com
City, Country:rohri, pakistan

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One teacher for entire school
Nausharo Feroze: About 100 students of the Middle School, Banho Khan Kolachi village near Tharushah with the support of their elders took out rally up to Bhorti-Tharushah road where they staged a sit-in for about an hour against the EDO Education on Saturday. They were led by Khair Mohammad Kolachi, Rahib Khan Kolachi, Shahmir and others.

They told reporters that only seven teachers including an Arabic teacher were posted in the school with the strength of 200 students, including 40 girls.

The load of teaching 200 students lies on an only Arabic teacher and rest of the teachers were not attending school since last about seven months.

They further alleged that no action had been taken despite several complaints to DDO, DO and EDO education.

They appealed to the Sindh education minister to look into the matter and take notice of the loss to students and resolve their problem.

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Mafia operated in Sindh Text Book Board (STBB) in past'
Hyderabad: Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq admitted on Saturday that 'a mafia' was operating in Sindh Text Book Board (STBB) in past but now a committee had been formed to procure paper in a transparent manner.

Talking to journalists at the press club after a tea party hosted in his honour, the minister said that Pakistan Peoples Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement had learned from their past and were moving forward under the reconciliation approach.

He said that despite the fact that PPP won majority of seats in Sindh Assembly, "we have taken everybody on board including MQM and ANP".

He said that main task of the government was to provide education, health and job opportunities to people and maintain law and order.

He informed that EDO education Hyderabad was involved in illegal recruitment without calling the meeting of recruitment committee, therefore, an inquiry had been initiated and legal action would be taken against him.

The minister said that this practice had resulted in saving Rs15 million and role of middlemen has been eliminated while only 8 to 10 publishers with printing presses have been given task for publishing the books.

He said that a proposal would also be implemented for publishing a single textbook with four sub-titles for students which is expected to save Rs30million. The minister announced a donation of Rs50,000 for the press club.

He said under the local bodies system, the district governments are supposed to look after the school buildings and education department is providing Rs100 million to each district of Sindh for repair and provision of missing facilities in the schools.

Schools in need of major repairs
Sukkur: Buildings of more than 240 schools have become so worn out and dilapidated they need major repairs and eight offices of the education department, constructed just 10 years ago, have been declared dangerous, according to a survey conducted by the education works department.

The school buildings in Sukkur, Pano Akil, Rohri, Salehpat and New Sukkur talukas required major repairs and renovation, incurring Rs200 million funds while the Sindh government had provided Rs100 million to the district government for carrying out major repairs and renovation of the schools, sources in the department said.

They said that eight offices of EDO, DDOs and ADOs at the campus office of the education department had been declared dangerous. The building's ground floor had been built in 1998 and the first floor in 2002 but most of the roofs and walls had developed cracks within just 10 years, they said.

EDO of education Jay Ram Das said that the government had allocated Rs100 million under the Sindh Education Reform Support Programme out of which Rs50 million would be spent on providing buildings for shelter-less schools, Rs25 million on repair and maintenance of the schools and the remaining Rs25 million on construction of additional classrooms.

About dilapidated condition of the campus office, he said that the education works department had prepared a PC-1 to carry out major repairs and renovation of the building.

To a question why the building had become so worn out just 10 years of its construction, he said that he could not comment on it because he was not a technical person. Dawn

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