02 September, 2014 / Ziqa'ad 6, 1435

No place to learn

Published Feb 12, 2013 08:08pm

THOSE who wield power in Pakistan are hardly concerned about the state of public education because they can afford to send their children to private schools. Those with no choice but to turn to government schools lack the influence to demand change. Hence it is welcome that the Supreme Court has taken notice of ‘ghost’ schools — public ‘schools’ where no teaching takes place but whose teachers draw regular salaries. Hearing a related case on Monday, the apex court ordered the formation of a commission, made up of district and sessions judges, to report on the details of ghost and non-functional schools in the country.

Estimates by NGOs indicate that there are thousands of such schools throughout Pakistan, although the problem is most acute in Sindh. While figures suggest that around 25 million children are out of school nationwide, the neglect of public education is manifesting itself in different ways in the provinces. In Sindh over a third of schools don’t have a building or boundary wall. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, aside from the large-scale destruction of schools by militants, many institutes have closed because teachers prefer to seek better paying jobs in the urban areas. Among Punjab’s main problems is the illegal occupation of schools. Balochistan faces a litany of woes, among them the fact that the majority of teachers in rural areas don’t show up to teach. The core of the problem everywhere is the same: bad governance.

It is difficult to address the inadequacies of the curriculum or pedagogy if the physical infrastructure is poor or no teaching is going on because schools exist only on paper. Efforts were made during Gen Musharraf’s rule to ascertain the situation in public schools, which is when the issue of ghost schools came to the fore. By all accounts, attempts to reduce teacher absenteeism met with resistance as many elected nazims of the time argued that holding teachers accountable would not go down well in their constituencies. The Supreme Court-constituted committee should now focus on checking the misuse of education funds and curbing teacher absenteeism. Ideally, local people must be hired, trained and persuaded to stay in their native areas as it is difficult to convince those based in cities to move to the hinterland. There must also be zero tolerance for political inductions and interference in educational affairs, as political appointees serve the interests of their patrons rather than of education. Denying Pakistan’s children educational opportunities will result in a nation of uneducated millions with no marketable skills, causing further complications such as reduced productivity and social strife. In fact, the disaster is already in the process of unfolding.

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Comments (2) (Closed)

Feb 13, 2013 09:21am
The issue of putting right the educational affairs of the country is correct and extremely important ?but its handling through the SC is entirely catastrophic.Subject of education is now devolved to the provinces which has increased the complexity and magnitude of the problems manifold.Let us start with the commission of the SC which would atleast have one SC judge', High court judges from each province and as many District and Session judges as the districts of Pakistan.This in itself may be misuse of legal power of the entire judiciary,as judiciary is not supposed to function as a chain of command down to district level and interfere in 'government funtions', which in fact means negation of the present 'judicial system. Secondly, this would bring judiciary more in contact with the government officials and general public increasing the chances of corrupton,patronage,nepotism and politicisaton of judiciary as a whole.In any case,this judicial commission consisting of about 70 members would not rely only on the data provided by the education officials because every thing would be hunky-dory for them.It would mean verification from independent sources.The question would be,what sources?. General public,media or lawyers?.To me the entire exercise is unlikely to yeild any positive result except 'Populism'. Better not to encourage running of parallel government lest we destroy everything.?
Sue Sturgess
Feb 14, 2013 01:05am
Pakistan government knows that it is much easier to control poor, uneducated people.