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LAHORE: The Punjab government is allocating Rs56bn in the 2017-18 development budget for the education sector, a 32pc increase from the last budget.

“We are allocating Rs56bn in 2017-18 development budget for the education sector. Our main focus of next fiscal year will be addressing the issue of missing facilities in public sector schools. In 2018, there will not be a single public school without boundary wall, furniture, electricity, toilets and drinking water,” Punjab Secretary (Schools) Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik told Dawn here on Tuesday.

“We have allocated more than 32.4pc budget for education sector compared to the corresponding period last year, showing the commitment of the provincial government for bringing more improvement in the sector,” he said.

Dr Malik, a member of the Pakistan Administrative Service, further said besides provision of missing facilities, sending every child to school, provision of quality education and teachers training were among the other areas the provincial government would lay emphasis on this year.

A teachers body however believes that more than Rs100bn are required only to meet the missing facilities.

“Schoolteacher will hear good tiding as the Punjab government has decided to upgrade their posts meeting their long-standing demand,” the secretary said. The schoolteachers want grade 14, 16 and 17 for Primary School Teacher, Elementary School Teacher and Secondary School Teacher, respectively.”

Dr Malik said the government was taking special steps to restore teachers’ respect. “Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif says that teacher is most important individual of a society. He shall be given highest esteem by all of us,” he said, adding a new programme ‘star teachers’ was being launched. “Star badge will be displayed on the shoulder of teachers showing outstanding performance. Besides, a teachers foundation is being set up with a seed money of Rs2bn that will provide soft loans to teachers for marriage of their children, house, car etc,” he said, adding on the pattern of developed world, best teachers would be given a license recognising their services and giving them reward and promotion.

“It will be a kind of distinction setting off a healthy competition among schoolteachers and ultimate beneficiary will be their students,” he said.

Dr Malik also informed that the provincial government had planned to set up the ‘Punjab Testing Service’ by the end of this year. The revenue generated from this service would be spent on the school education, he said.

By June 30, he said, recruitment of 80,000 educators would be completed and each educator had been hired on merit. The government also plans to hire 5,000 assistant education officers (AEOs) for better supervision and monitoring.

Punjab Teachers Union Secretary-General Rana Liaquat told Dawn that the provincial government should allocate over Rs100bn for the education sector. “Only provision of missing facilities like construction of 36,000 classrooms in public schools need Rs100bn. There are hundreds of other schools without clean drinking water and electricity,” he said, adding the government also needed to address the problems schoolteachers were facing.

“The government in 2017-18 budget must announce restoration of house rent allowance that has been frozen since 2011 and provision of utility and ad hoc allowances for teachers,” Liaquat said and proposed upgradation of PST and EST in grade 16.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2017