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ISLAMABAD: In an unprecedented move, the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) kept the teachers on their toes at the weekend by asking them to ensure their attendance in their respective institutions on Sunday.

After a week-long winter break, the schools are reopening on Monday.

However, on Saturday evening, the FDE directors through text messages asked the principals to ensure the presence of their staff on Sunday.

Subsequently, the heads of all the 422 educational institutions contacted their teachers, asking them to report on duty on Sunday.

Sources said the decision to call the teachers to duty on Sunday was taken as the newly-appointed parliamentary secretary CADD, Maiza Hameed, MNA, of the PML-N, was likely to visit any educational institution.

“On Saturday evening, I was in my native town with my family when our vice principal contacted me, saying the FDE had decided to open all schools on Sunday. I was told that the DG can visit any school. As a result, I had to rush back to Islamabad the same night,” said a schoolteacher, who requested not to be named.

The school heads were officially told that they should decorate the classrooms besides preparing charts etc., ahead of the reopening of the schools on Monday.

“Respected sir, as directed by DG all heads to open schools/colleges one day prior to holidays in order to organise their classes, prep charts & decorate .DG/JS(edu) may visit any school/college randomly. Please ensure,” read the text message sent by FDE’s director admin, retired Maj Waheed Khan.

The college and schoolteachers’ associations claimed that the FDE did not inform the teachers until Saturday night.

“We want to know what the urgency was. Why for the first time after the short winter break, teachers were asked on Saturday night to ensure their presence on Sunday. This ambiguous decision kept the entire teaching community in a lurch as teachers reported on duty but neither the DG nor any other officer visited any institution,” said Prof Sagheer Mirani, President Federal Government College Teachers Association.

He said MNA Maiza Hameed could have visited any institution on any working day. He said as for as cleanliness was concerned, this task could be done on Monday when the schools would reopen.

Similar views were expressed by Malik Ameer Khan of the FG schoolteachers association.

“The school heads were informed on Saturday night to ensure the presence of teaching and non-teaching staff on Sunday. The teachers came to schools on Sunday and kept on waiting for the expected visit of the DG.” He said those who issued the notification and SMS alert to the teachers enjoyed their holiday with their families.

A source in the FDE said the decision to call the teachers was taken as there were chances that the parliamentary secretary CADD would visit educational institutions anytime on Sunday or Monday.

The directorate also issued a notification on Thursday. The notification stated: “It is to inform you that Ms Maiza Hameed, MNA and parliamentary secretary, shall visit the schools/colleges, therefore, principals are requested to ensure that all teaching and non teaching staff of their respective institutes will come on Sunday for ensuring clean environment.” The notification was issued by director model colleges, Dr Tariq Masood.

Interestingly, the notification mentioned the issuance date as December 29, 2017, showing it was prepared in haste.

Dr Masood said following a meeting on December 27 all the directors were supposed to write letters to the heads of schools and colleges. “I wrote to the model schools and colleges. I don’t know about the others,” he said, adding following the notification the director admin through SMS informed the heads of institutions about it.

When contacted, Joint Secretary Education at the Ministry of CADD, Ayesha Farooq, who is also holding the additional charge of the director general FDE, told Dawn that the decision to open schools on Sunday was taken on Wednesday to organise classes and conduct cleanliness before the formal reopening on Monday.

She said after the meeting the directors concerned had informed all heads of colleges and schools. “If there was any communication gap, I would look into the matter but I’m sure all heads were sent SMS well before time. Various teachers associations are trying to give a wrong impression that on Saturday night teachers were asked to ensure their presence on Sunday.”

She said it was a common practice in private schools to ask teachers to ensure their presence one or two days before the reopening of the institutions after the summer or winter break to make necessary arrangements.

“We have been taking various steps to bring an improvement to all educational institutions. However, some elements do not like to perform their duties and are making an issue out of minor things,” she said.

After the retirement of Dr Shahnaz A. Riaz on December 12, the FDE is without a permanent director general.

Published in Dawn January 2nd, 2017