ISLAMABAD: Around a dozen educational bodies in the capital are being run on an ad hoc basis, raising questions at a time when the PTI government has expressed its commitment to uplifting the education sector.

“The situation is so alarming. Before going to take ‘big’ steps, the education ministry should first appoint heads of these bodies to make them effective,” an education ministry official said.

While collecting data on educational bodies in the capital, Dawn noticed that around a dozen important departments attached to the Ministry of Federal Education are currently without permanent heads.

Although work is being carried out through ad hoc arrangements, officials say that without appointing regular heads the government will not be able to bring improvements to the education sector.

Officials say govt’s efforts to uplift education sector need to start by appointing regular heads

The Federal Directorate of Education (FDE), an umbrella organisation that oversees 423 schools and colleges in Islamabad, is without a head, as is the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Piera).

The National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) is also without a regular head, while the National Education Foundation lacks a managing director.

The post of the director general of the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) is also vacant, and the office of the Basic Education Community School (BECS) director general has been vacant for around two months.

There is no regular head of the National Talent Pool either, sources said. Meanwhile the post of secretary general at the Pakistan National Commission for Unesco – an education ministry liaison office with Unesco – has also been vacant for a long time.

The National Curriculum Wing is also headless and manned through ad hoc arrangements, and sources said the Pakistan Girl Guides Association and the Federal Government Polytechnic Institute of Women are headless as well.

Since taking charge as minister of federal education, Shafqat Mahmood has spoken about bringing improvement to the education sector, stating on several occasions that is main target is to improve the quality of educational institutions and bring all 25 million out-of-school children into school.

But officials from his ministry’s attached departments Dawn spoke to said that without appointing regular and competent heads of these educational bodies the minister cannot achieve his desired targets.

“We have no doubt about the intention of the minister’s vision, but apparently without a regular head it will be difficult for him to achieve targets,” said a senior ministry officer who asked not to be named.

The officer said the ministry itself is facing a shortage of officers; there is no additional secretary at the ministry and the post of a joint secretary is also vacant.

When contacted, the ministry’s official spokesperson Joint Education Adviser Rafiq Tahir said that efforts are underway to appoint regular heads.

“The issue of headless organisations and ad hoc-ism is an old and inherited issue; the current management is not responsible for it. However, we are going to hire regular headssoon,” Mr Tahir said, adding that cases for the appointments of some heads are in the final stage.

He said that the situation was even worse when the incumbent minister took office, as the process of appointing three university heads had also been delayed. He said they appointed three vice chancellors, adding that there would be visible changes in Islamabad’s education sector within the next three months.

“Very soon we are going to launch a new education police, and a comprehensive drive to bring 30,000 out-of-school children from Islamabad into school is also going to be started soon,” Mr Tahir said.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2018