TAXILA: In April this year, the government launched a nationwide school enrolment drive, claiming that improving the enrolment of children in schools lies at the forefront of improving Pakistan’s education system. But the other side of the same coin seems to have gone untouched.

At the Government Girls High School in the Behboodi tehsil of Hazro, there is one teacher available to address the educational needs of over 250 students, from first to tenth grade.

Parents of these students say the authorities are well aware of the situation and are largely uninterested in solving it. They added that there is an abundance of schoolteachers in urban areas, but the authorities do not transfer them to rural areas.

Fatima Bibi, a ninth grade student in the aforementioned school, said there is only one teacher who teaches the whole school. She said due to the lack of attention and the high workload, the drop out ratio in the school is high.

Another student, Shaheen, said the school is in a rural area, and there is only one government institution to cater to low-income children who cannot afford to pay private school fees.

Students’ parents have called on the Punjab chief minister and the education secretary to take notice of the matter, and ensure that teachers are posted to the school according to its requirements. Tahir Durrani, an educationist, explained that successive governments have abandoned the policies of previous administrations and adopted newer and more ambitious targets – wreaking havoc on the education system and squandering millions of dollars.

He said: “If the present government wants to strengthen education in the country at a grassroots level and promote literacy, the flaws in primary education must be dealt with, and so must the vacant teaching posts and the missing facilities. Students are attracted to schools with the best possible facilities.”

When contacted, Executive District Officer Education Khalid Mehmood said the district and provincial education authorities are aware of the shortage of teachers at the school.

He said teachers had been appointed to these schools many times, but resigned for “personal” reasons. He said five posts are reserved for the schools in a new recruitment plan, and five new teachers would be posted in the current academic year. He added that two daily-wage teachers were also arranged from the school fund, to meet the demand for teachers on a war-footing.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2016