IT is unfortunate that the reforms attempted in Sindh to tackle the educational crisis in the province have been unsuccessful in reducing the incidence of teacher absenteeism in schools. The Sindh School Education and Literacy Department has just released a long, regionally disaggregated list naming absentee teachers and staff. While the current list records absenteeism for the month of March, it is not for the first time that teachers have been called out for irresponsible behaviour. Teacher absenteeism has remained a persistent challenge; but naming and shaming school teachers has clearly not pulled the plug on this behaviour. Despite the use of biometric verification, the problem will continue until teachers and managers are penalised for absenteeism and held accountable for their responsibilities — years of government failure to crack down on ‘ghost’ teachers, a euphemism for absent teachers, is the real challenge.

When teachers are absent from classrooms, and the rate of student enrolment and retention has hardly increased, investing in rebuilding school infrastructure is not the solution. In February, the Sindh chief minister had told a World Bank delegation that the rehabilitation of over 4,000 schools had been planned. With more than 6m out-of-school children in a province with an education budget of Rs202m, these are merely tall promises that do nothing to make quality education accessible to all. For any education system to be able to provide students with opportunities, teachers are the most critical stakeholders. As is the case with other professions, it is only when teachers are incentivised through career development and annual awards for good performance that they will excel. Another aspect is to ensure that teachers are equipped with subject-specific skills as well as pedagogical standards. With disturbingly low learning outcomes in Sindh — and particularly for girls — it is critical that this government execute a progressive approach to improving teaching standards for bettering the prospects of our future generations.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2018

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