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MITHI, Sept 30: Participants at a seminar said on Sunday that political meddling in education affairs of Tharparkar district should be stopped and special quota for Thari students be earmarked in technical institutions and universities.

Speaking at a seminar on the “Status of education and future of Thar” held under the aegis of a civil society organisation, AWARE , at Chhachhro, Ali Akbar Rahumo, a veteran social worker and researcher, said that the country could not achieve the goal of real progress without quality education.

But, he said, it had been badly hampered owing to political interference and politicians should refrain from unjustified interference in educational affairs.

Mr Rahumo also shared some data at the seminar and said that last year, out of 2,21,203 students of Thar enrolled for primary to higher secondary level only 374 continued their education up to intermediate. At least 15,793 studied till class five and only 3,573 passed their matriculation exams. He further said that only two per cent had studied up to graduation or university level. The speaker urged that the year 2014 be commemorated as emergency year for education in Thar and fool-proof measures be taken to ensure imparting of quality education in the region.

Noted poet and educationalist Halim Baghi said that getting a quality education was the fundamental right of every child, however a large number of children who were of school-going age had not been enrolled at schools.

“This will impede their path in becoming useful citizens of tomorrow,” and added that a quality education was the only tool that could help in promoting peace and brotherhood besides ensuring sustainable development.

Faqir Umed Ali Nohri , District Education Officer-Elementary, said that numerous schools were functioning in Thar and a large number of teachers were posted at these schools; however it was very difficult for an officer to initiate any action against absent teachers since they had political backing.

Activist Fatima Saund also shared her views with the participants. “Most Tharis subsist below the poverty line, hence getting a quality education has remained a distant dream for their children,” she said.

Deploring the state of female education in Thar, researcher Jan Mohammad Samoon indicated that out of 568 female teachers for 607 girls primary schools, 180 were untrained, whereas out of 607 girls primary schools, 282 schools were without shelter, 229 had no compound wall, 189 lacked drinking water facility and 731 were closed.

Yet another speaker Mohammad Sharif Rahumo claimed that the extent to which the standard of education at primary level had declined in Thar could be gauged from the fact that only 37 per cent children of class one could read a letter in Sindhi; 1.6 per cent could read sentences in Sindhi; 84 per cent of class one students could not read English and only 12 per cent students of the same class knew numbers up to 99.

Other speakers including Noor Mohammad, Jeendo Khan, Azizullah and Keshawla spoke at the seminar and urged that suitable educational facilities be ensured at schools in Thar.