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THE Punjab Higher Education Department has failed to deliver as the quality of education is not being improved nor is any initiative being taken to do the job.

The public colleges showed poor results in the previous degree examination but no action was taken. The only performance Higher Education Department Secretary Abdullah Khan Sumbal wants to boast was his “surprise visits” to colleges to check preparations for the control of dengue.

More importantly, Mr Khan presented his performance through handouts and TV tickers that he had suspended Government Boys College, Ghaziabad, Lahore Cantt, principal for not holding zero period for creating awareness about elimination of dengue among students and not implementing the government instructions regarding anti-dengue campaign.

While the teachers association leaders have criticised the HED secretary for taking action against the principal, they wonder why the secretary never visited to check the imparting of education in colleges – the basic duty he has been assigned.

A teacher leader said HED Secretary Abdullah Sumbal seemed least concerned about his department as we was busy in other duties. “Mr Khan is away from his office most of the time either for visiting Ramazan bazaars and flood-hit areas in other cities or looking after anti-dengue campaigns,” he said.

On a serious note, he said, teachers were also being engaged in different activities other than academic duties as they were even asked to be present in their colleges even on Sundays for anti-dengue drives. “At the end of the day, the teachers are asked about their performance in their basic duty of teaching but the secretaries get away with wrongs for serving to please the chief minister,” the teacher leader observed.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Teachers Union leaders have rightly said the government has kept teachers engaged to eliminate polio but did not realise that their absence from their workplaces is crippling the whole nation.

Teacher leaders say the schools as well as colleges are facing acute shortage of facilities but teachers are being ‘threatened’ to produce results as well as serve additional duties more actively than teaching.

Teachers’ repeated demands that they should be allowed to do their academic duties with peace of mind have never been met. Teachers are being punished more for non-performance of additional duties.

Many women schoolteachers were recently warned of serious consequences leading to transfers or termination of jobs, when they protested against the anti-polio vaccination drive duties for being not fit to do the jobs.

The HED secretary has rarely been seen taking notice of corruption, mismanagement and high-handedness of officials while performing their duties in his domain. Many corruption stories in public universities have been revealed in newspapers but the department just failed to initiate any action.

The only initiative of launching BS (Honours) classes in colleges in the near past was also not taken care of by successive HED secretaries and students just completed their degrees without enjoying proper lab facilities and qualified teachers that were needed to be hired from the open market.

Top slots of different boards of intermediate and secondary education are vacant but the postings, officials concerned claim, will be done when deals will be finalised as the officials will be required to serve more the political head of the department. Recently, BISE, Bahawalpur, acting chairman locked the door of board secretary as he was questioned for allowing distribution of question-papers before time at a particular examination centre, allotting ‘safe’ examination centres for the students of academies being run by his favourite as well as near and dear ones, transferring a lots of board employees to get desired results and other charges. But no inquiry or action has so far been taken although the board secretary’s office was de-sealed.

As the higher education department has failed to perform its duties accordingly, it is now also being relieved of its duties of looking after the affairs of the universities as the Punjab governor has promulgated an ordinance of creation of the Higher Education Commission, Punjab, which will look after the affairs of the universities.

The HED will now be looking after the affairs of the colleges and boards and other autonomous bodies working under its jurisdiction.

Historically, the Punjab Education Department headed by a secretary used to look after the affairs of whole education system ranging from universities, colleges, schools, literacy, technical and special education institutions to sports about one-and-a-half decade ago. “The quality of education in public institutions has gone down during the past one-and-a-half decade though it is managed by five administrative secretaries,” a senior educationist commented.

THE nation celebrated World Teachers Day on Sunday and students sent text messages to their teachers to pay their gratitude for what they learned from them to transform their lives.

Teachers are playing a critical role in society by shaping the lives and minds of the children but they themselves are facing enormous challenges and getting little or no support to tackle them and perform their jobs properly.

According to Alif Ailaan team, in many government schools across the country, teachers are hired, transferred and posted not on the basis of merit but on political grounds alone.

Such teachers fail to show up to work and are rarely held accountable. Their actions damage the reputation of the profession and weaken the resolve of the many hard-working teachers who serve our communities and our children.

It says the government schoolteachers are also called upon to perform a host of non-teaching tasks, from dengue walks and vaccination drives to festivals and election duties. This eats into class time, distracts teachers from their main duties and affects their ability to teach our children.

At the same time, it says, thousands of dedicated and outstanding teachers across the country work tirelessly and in difficult conditions to make sure the pupils in their care receive a good education. “We do our children and society as a whole a great disservice by failing to acknowledge their contribution,” says Alif Ailaan team. – mansoormalik173@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014