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ISLAMABAD: The stance of the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE), that ‘favoured’ students could not be accommodated in the capital’s model school and colleges if merit was strictly observed, was not met with approval from members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat.

Committee chairman Rana Mohammad Hayat observed that if merit was not ensured, people would start leaving their camp and switch to the PTI, referring to the opposition party’s demands for a meritocratic system.

However, even the PTI representative, Islamabad MNA Asad Umar, seemed to be making a case for ‘favouristism’. He initiated debate on the subject by complaining that FDE had all but ignored a list of 200 students that he had provided to the directorate. Of the 200 students, he said, only two were admitted, while the rest could not be accommodated.

PTI MNA abandons party principles, asks CADD minister to accommodate all 200 students he recommended for admission

Justifying his request for ‘preferential treatment’, he claimed that admission forms to Islamabad’s schools were actually issued from the office of the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) minister. “School administrations and the FDE only entertain letters from the CADD minister for admissions,” he said.

PTI MNA Nafeesa Inayatullah Khattak also alleged that admissions were only granted on the orders of the CADD minister.

MQM MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi agreed with Mr Umar’s second assertion and added that principals who had refused to admit ‘well-connected’ students on the CADD minister’s directions, had been transferred out.

But he took issue with the PTI MNA’s demand, saying, “It is strange that Mr Umar sent a list of 200 students for admissions. This means that he also wants to admit students against merit.”

FDE Director General Dr Shahnaz A Riaz said there were only 20 model colleges in the federal capital and everyone wanted their children to be enrolled there.

“If we [are to] ensure merit, it will become impossible to adjust [recommended] students in model colleges. We have federal government (FG) schools, but no one wants to study there,” she said.

Mr Abidi termed this “ridiculous thinking” and said that in view of the problems being discussed, it was small wonder that the quality of education was deteriorating.

At this point, FDE Model Colleges Director Tariq Masood came to his department’s defence, saying that at total of around 215,000 students are studying in 422 different educational institutions.

“The model colleges were once under a board of governors, so their standards are comparatively better and people want their children to study there. We have been taking steps to increase the capacity of these model colleges to accommodate more students,” he said.

CADD Minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, said all students should be accommodated in schools because every child has the right to education under Article 25-A.

But, he added, admissions should not violate merit. “I have given clear instructions that every child should be admitted on merit, and those who cannot meet the merit [requirements] should be sent to FG schools.”

The committee chairman pointed out that Dr Riaz clearly stated that admissions were already being made against merit, and reiterated the importance of ensuring merit-based admissions for PML-N representatives, lest people start leaving the party.

Mr Umar, however, said that the government should ensure that merit is observed in admissions to model schools, otherwise, the remaining 198 students from his list should also be accommodated.

He made his case by saying that as a representative of all residents of the capital, he has to face them and he gets such requests nearly every day.

Forced to choose between the two, the CADD minister went back on his earlier words and asked Mr Umar to send the list to his office, saying he would do his best to “accommodate the students”.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2016