College teachers asked to donate for out-of-school children

Updated May 19, 2019

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In this file photo, girls attend a makeshift school at an Islamabad park in November 2018. — AP
In this file photo, girls attend a makeshift school at an Islamabad park in November 2018. — AP

ISLAMABAD: Teachers of the model as well as federal government (FG) colleges have been directed by their principals to donate up to Rs2,000 for about 5,000 out-of-school children who were recently enrolled in different schools in the capital.

These children lack uniforms, schoolbags and other items.

“Teachers up to Basic Pay Scale (BPS) 16 will have to pay Rs1,000 each and those in BPS 17 and above Rs2,000 as each principal has been directed by the education ministry to arrange Rs200,000. As principals have made it mandatory to donate and lists have been prepared, we have no option but to pay,” a teacher of a model college told Dawn requesting anonymity.

He said if there was a government policy to collect money from teachers for the children, the government should directly deduct it from their salaries.

Principals direct teachers in BPS 16 to donate Rs1,000 each and those in BPS 17 and above Rs2,000 each

“We are already facing severe financial issues but are being forced to donate in cash. How the amount received in cash would be audited and how we would be satisfied that the money would not end up in pockets of bureaucrats,” he asked.

When contacted, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood told Dawn that during a meeting held on Friday (May 17) he had directed the principals that contribution would be collected on a voluntarily basis.

“The teachers should file a complaint with me if any principal forces them to pay donations,” he said.

“However, I have donated Rs25,000 and some officers of the ministry have donated up to Rs5,000 each. The principals have been advised to ask their employees if they want to donate but no teacher should be forced,” he said.

The minister said out-of-school children were in miserable conditions and they lacked uniforms, schoolbags and other items.

That is why it was decided to collect donations for them.

“If principals are forcing teachers to pay donations, the teachers should lodge a complaint with me and I will take strict action as no one should be forced to donate,” Mr Mahmood said.

But a teacher said initially principals of 34 model and federal government colleges had been directed to pool in Rs200,000 each but the principals sought a direction in writing to avoid audit objections as the amount had to be paid from the students’ fund. As a result, the proposal could not be materialised.

“Later, they were directed to collect donations and hand over the amount to Area Education Officer Hafiz Ehsan. We are already suffering and cannot afford to pay,” he said.

A representative of the Federal Government College Teachers Association, requesting not to be quoted, said out-of-school children campaign was abrupt and unplanned.

“Ignoring various parameters, this was started in order to attract the media. The population of Islamabad is increasing. There is no increase in the number of government schools for the last over six years. The government should focus on quality, not quantity,” he said.

An official of the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) said efforts had been made to address the issue of out-of-school children for the last a few years.

“Initially, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was approached and on its recommendations a model was devised under which out-of-school children would be divided into four groups. Children from five to seven years would be admitted to class one, from eight to nine and 10 to 12 years to the advanced accelerated quality learning programme and within one year they would be taught to appear in primary school exam. Moreover, children in the age group of 13 to 15 years would be given vocational training,” he said.

“As many as 2,500 teachers, 50 from each union council, were shortlisted for training and a number of non-government organisations were contacted to provide uniforms, schoolbags. The NGOs had agreed. However, the model was not implemented due to which NGOs did not provide funds. Now over 5,000 out-of-school children have been enrolled but they lack uniforms, schoolbags etc.

Their parents have been demanding uniforms and bags as they were promised that these items would be arranged for the children.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2019