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ISLAMABAD: The disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister has led to many delays in the conduction of the Prime Minister Education Reform Programme. Now, the PC-I for the third phase of the project, which includes the renovation of 200 educational institutions in the capital is yet to be approved by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP).

According to sources in the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD), the ministry wanted to get the project approved in the last meeting of the CDWP which could not be done due to negligence by the concerned officials, who took a lot of time preparing the PC-1.

“We were expecting that the PC-1 for the third phase of the Prime Minister’s Education Reform Package will be approved in the recent meeting of the CDWP, but the PC-1 was not even on the agenda items, I came to know,” said Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) Director General Hasnat Qureshi.

He said the PC-1 will not be presented before the pre-CDWP meeting scheduled for April 3 after which it will be taken up in the main meeting.

“Since the project was not submitted before the pre-CDWP, one cannot say it is the fault of the Planning Commission. I would say the PC-1 of such projects take time to complete and that there is no delay therefore,” the DG said.

The reforms programme was started by Maryam Nawaz in Dec 2015 after visiting a girls’ school in Kot Hatyal where she saw that many facilities were missing in the school and that the standard of education was poor.

The programme was inaugurated by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Dec 2015 and was meant to renovate all the 423 educational institutions in the federal capital and was also to include improving the education standards.

Only 22 schools have been renovated in the first phase of the programme so far and the second phase of revamping the next 200 schools is in progress and there are no immediate plans for starting the third phase of improving the rest of the schools.

The second phase of the project was started last year after summer vacations and was facing delays due to the slow release of funds and the lack of interest by the concerned authorities.

However, the funding issues have been solved now and work is under progress.

“We are making all efforts to complete this phase by the end of April or May, subject to receiving the last financial quarter release of Rs845 million,” said CADD Project Director Waqas Farid.

An amount of Rs2.7 billion was approved for the second phase and all except the last instalment has been released.

The final phase is expected to cost Rs2.9 billion and the PC-I for this phase is still in the process for approval.

“The ongoing second phase is also facing delays and it is also doubtful that this phase might not be completed before elections,” an FDE official said.

He said there are also reports of substandard work but Mr Farid denied the claims.

“The renovated schools will be handed over to school management after all formalities are completed and all deficiencies are removed,” the project director said.

CADD and FDE were also supposed to purchase 200 buses for the schools. Only 70 buses were purchased last year and the matter of procuring the remaining is still pending.

Both the organisations took a long time in completing the tendering process and after the process was completed for the remaining 130 buses , they realised that there were variations in the specifications outlined in tender and that in the bid, which has caused further delays.

An FDE official said the CADD ministry objected to the successful bid a few days ago, saying that the tender had called for luxury reclining seats but the bidder had specified providing fixed seats.

When, asked FDE DG Qureshi said it was decided that the original tender will be followed but a final decision is to be taken by CADD. According to officials Dawn talked to, CADD is thinking about going for re-tendering.

Drivers also pointed out several issues in the already purchased buses, including mechanical faults, and issues with the brakes, roof, front screen, gauge meter and gear oil leakage etc.

Talking to Dawn, Federal Government Teacher Association President Malik Ameer Khan expressed concern over the fate of the project.

“In our school, in G-7/2, some 70pc of the renovations have been completed and the delay in completing the rest is causing difficulties for students. Many toilets have been under construction for months,” he said.

Mr Khan said the project should have involved incentives for teachers as well such as resolving the pending promotions cases or increasing the PhD allowance.

Under the same reforms package, the appointment of the FDE executive director was also made and the appointment of a permanent DG and teachers was also on the list but remains to be done.

The FDE has also yet to address the issue of some 2,000 daily wage teaching and non-teaching staff who have been striking for over two years for not being regularised and not being paid their salaries.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2018