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ISLAMABAD: Even though politicians across the political spectrum have promised to improve the education sector, it appears that they are not even capable of improving educational facilities in their own constituencies.

The constituencies of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, State Minister for Education Balighur Rehman, PTI chief Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah are some of the areas where students are still deprived of basic facilities and the quality of education is said to be deplorable.

The recent Midterm Report Card for Members of National Assembly, launched by education campaigners Alif Ailaan, paints a bleak picture of the leadership’s interest in education.

Only three out of a total of 272 elected MNAs managed an overall ‘A’ grade in the scorecard for progress in terms of school facilities, student retention, gender parity and the student-teacher ratio in public schools.

Constituencies of PM, PTI chief, education minister, opposition leader score ‘C’ grade on education report card

The three legislators who scored an ‘A’ grade were PML-N’s Dr Sheraz Mansab Ali Khan Kharal from NA-137 (Nankana Sahib), MQM’s Syed Ali Raza Abidi from NA-251 (Karachi) and Abdul Rahim Mandokhail from NA-260 (Quetta), who represents the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).

The four indicators on which MNAs were graded are: the state of school facilities such as progress in the provision of boundary walls, electricity, drinking water and toilet facilities since the 2013 election; the state of gender parity, which deals with the ratio of boys to girls; the retention rate of pupils from the second to the sixth grade; and, the student-teacher ratio in public school classrooms.

Voters from the prime minister’s constituency, NA-120 (Lahore), can take no pride in the state of education in their area. Prime Minister Sharif’s constituency scored a B for facilities and retention, but a C and D in gender parity and student-teacher ratio, respectively.

The education minister’s constituency, NA-185 (Bahawalpur) scored a B in facilities, D in retention, C in gender parity and B for the student-teacher ratio.

NA-56 (Rawalpindi), the constituency of PTI chief Imran Khan, also received deplorable scores, scoring Bs in facilities and retention, C in gender parity, and D in student-teacher ratios.

The people of NA-199 (Sukkur), who elected Syed Khursheed Shah, don’t fare much better, as the PPP leader scored Ds for both facilities and gender parity, and Bs in retention and student-teacher ratio.

The individual rankings also demonstrate an interesting trend. Of the 44 MNAs who scored an A or A+ in the facilities category, 31 hail from the ruling PML-N. Among these 44 constituencies, only four are located outside Punjab – two each in KP and Balochistan.

109 of the 181 MNAs who scored B grades overall are also from the ruling party.

According to the study’s authors, the grades do not reflect the state of education in a given constituency, but rather the demonstrable change in each constituency since the 2013 election. It points out that not only is there a lot of room for improvement, but a lot more room for improvement in the efforts MNAs make in support of better educational outcomes.

MQM MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi, who was one of the top three scorers on the card, said that his grade reflected the personal interest he had taken in his constituency.

“Things can be improved if one takes an interest. I would personally monitor the performance of schools, engage with parents and the community to take steps to improve public sector schools. I would also motivate teachers to produce better results,” he said. He said that out of school children could be brought back if every MNA took a personal interest in the matter.

PTI MNA from Dera Ismail Khan-Cum Tank, Dawar Khan Kundi, whose constituency scored an overall B grade, said were gradually improving in his province. “We are taking steps to improve our public sector schools,” he said, adding that compared to the past, the education sector in KP was receiving more funds and more attention from the provincial government.

Tahir Iqbal, the PML-N MNA from Chakwal, whose constituency scored a C, told Dawn that various steps were being taken to uplift the education sector.

“I agree that our entire education system faces a shortage of qualified teachers. Public school teachers should be highly qualified and fully trained,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2015