ISLAMABAD, Nov 6: Managements of Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CAD) and Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) have come under criticism from parents for sending college students to political and government functions in an attempt to inflate the number of participants.

Students, parents and teachers alike are perturbed as they feel that academics have taken a back seat.

A female faculty member of Islamabad Model College for Girls F-7/2, on the condition of anonymity, told Dawn that on Tuesday the college’s principal instructed two teachers to accompany a bus full of students to Lok Virsa on Wednesday.

“The bus will have two teachers, which will affect the studies of students. CAD and FDE regularly ask colleges to send students to functions at Convention Centre, Sports Complex and other places,” she complained.

Given that parents of day scholars have been vocal in their complaints, the administration now usually asks for female hostel students.

“In the past we would send the entire class but parents started to complain that they do not want their children to attend such gatherings. So now we only send students of the college’s hostel, because their parents are in other cities and it would not be an issue if they came back late,” she said.

At the same time, she accused the FDE of having misplaced priorities: “Classes of third year started one and half months back, but there is no botany teacher. FDE does not have time to resolve real issues, but is ready to serve VIPs.”

Hira Naseem, a student at a local girls’ college, said that most students want to participate in fairs and trips, but “we get bored in political gatherings because we have no interest in those issues. We only have to clap on every statement.”

She pointed out: “Whenever our college management arranges trips or fairs, they charge a lot of money for tickets and other expenses on the pretext that the college buses will be used. However, when they send us to political gatherings, they don’t ask us for money and there is never an issue of finances.”

Abdul Shakoor, father of a student, said that the managements of schools and colleges have no right to send students to a function without the explicit permission of parents in writing just like they seek permission at the time of school and college entertainment trips.

“Crimes have been increasing all over the country, students especially girls can be kidnapped. In case of any mishap, the management of colleges will be responsible and parents will lodge FIR against principal,” he said.

Meanwhile, principal of F-7/2 College, Talat Samiullah, confirmed that she has been instructed by the local administration to send students: “I have decided to send one bus full of students along with two teachers. We have no choice but to follow the instructions.”

While replying to a question, she agreed that such unscheduled activities affected studies as teachers were unable to take lectures and students missed important classes.

When Dawn contacted, FDE spokesman Waqar Ashraf on the matter, he defended the directorate by saying that recently an NGO organised a session on democracy and they decided to send students.

“That sort of activity gives them confidence, their personality gets groomed. Students will come back after spending almost three hours there,” he added.

Director-general FDE Shahnaz A. Riaz claimed that the practice of sending students to functions had been going on well before she arrived.

“Ministries and NGOs demand children for their functions. At least, 1,000 students are provided for matches of Pakistan. NGOs provide refreshment to students and pay the transportation charges of students to FDE. Those decisions are taken at director level in FDE,” she said, and then added: “On September 8, Ministry of Education and Professional Training demanded students for literacy walk but we refused because it was a holiday. However, students are also sent abroad and CAD decides the name of students and teachers.”

On the other hand, Joint Secretary CAD Rafique Tahir feigned ignorance about the matter and told Dawn: “I am not aware of any such permission given by the school management or FDE. In the past, we have refused political personalities and their demands to send students to their functions. I will inquire about it.”

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