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Schoolchildren suffer for want of top education officer

April 30, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Some 180,000 schoolchildren of the city find themselves caught in dilemma regarding free textbooks that government distributes every new academic year because the authority to decide the matter is not there.

Dawn has learnt that the authority lies with the Director General of the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) but the government has not appointed one since it removed Dr Shahnaz A. Riaz on February 13.

Director Colleges Mehmood Akhtar Malik, who was given charge of the office, retired on April 9. Hafiz Sher Ali, Joint Secretary Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) went on leave just a week after taking over the temporary post from him. Currently Joint Secretary CADD Rafique Tahir holds the charge but a permanent DG FDE is still to be appointed.

Joint Secretary Tahir said a summary had been sent to the Prime Minister’s Office for the appointment of the permanent head of FDE.

“As far as delivery of books is concerned, they could be printed in time because of a court injunction. Instructions have gone to the National Book Foundation to start printing the books on war footing after the stay order authors of the books had obtained from a court was vacated on April 5,” he said.

“The books will be handed over to the students within two weeks. CADD has been ensuring merit in all policy decisions,” he said.

Meanwhile Dr Shahnaz has been knocking at different doors for relief as she believes Secretary CADD had no authority to remove her from the office.

She says she was appointed DG FDE on the orders of the prime minister and could be removed only by that authority.

“I cannot understand why a permanent head is not being appointed,” said a senior FDE official, requesting anonymity. “Because of the unavailability of a fulltime head, FDE affairs are suffering. Staff members, including directors, play truant and those who attend leave office at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

Late comers offer the excuse that they were attending meetings at CADD.

Another FDE official confided that “total confusion” prevailed over the directorate’s task to provide free textbooks to students of Class I to X.

“We are not sure if the course books will be same as last year or they are to be replaced. School heads also have been asking the same but we have no answer,” he said.

Citizen Maqbool Ahmed said his son, a student of class III in a school in Sector G-10, had not received books on Mathematics and General Science.

“My daughter, who studies in class V in the Islamabad Model College for Girls in Sector I-10, was handed only two books - on Science and Social Studies and told that books on other subjects are being changed,” he said.

Joint Secretary Federal Government Colleges Teachers Association Professor Tahir Bhatti agreed that absence of a fulltime DG had disturbed all activities of the FDE.

“Joint Secretary CADD Rafique Tahir, holding current charge of FDE, has lots of responsibilities in CADD and also the current charge of National Institute of Science and Technical Education (NISTE),” he said.

“It is impossible for a person to deal with issues of three departments at the same time. Especially when rules require all departments have full time heads,” he added.