LAHORE: Punjab Minister for Special Education Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq has said that the previous governments did not pay any attention to the special education department.

Addressing a press conference at the Directorate General Public Relations on Wednesday after launching a special education policy for the province, the minister claimed that such a policy had been formulated for the first time in the history of Punjab and the provincial cabinet had given its nod recently.

Talking about the performance of his department, Mr Akhlaq said 585 teachers had been recruited through the Punjab Public Service Commission and 306 more would be recruited this year. In order to provide free travel facility to the differently abled students, the Punjab government had provided 51 buses worth Rs330 million this year.

The government had also established special education centres in Muzaffargarh, Rawalpindi, Bhakkar, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sheikhupura, Khanewal and Layyah as well as secondary schools for girls in Sahiwal and Bahawalpur and degree colleges in Sargodha and Dera Ghazi Khan. New buildings had been constructed in 17 of the centres and the special education institutions in 14 districts upgraded.

He further said books worth Rs10 million were provided for libraries in 147 special education institutions of the province. A policy has also been devised for the transfer of teachers and staff to these institutions.

The minister said a helpline 1162 has also been established for providing guidance to the parents of differently abled children and lodging their complaints. Biometric machines have been installed in 300 institutions to ensure the attendance of teachers and staff and CCTV cameras in educational institutions and buses for ensuring better monitoring.

He said latest courses are being introduced for the children who will also be taught information technology and forensic science. He claimed the PTI government was trying to increase the quota for differently abled people in government jobs.

Akhlaq added that due to a lack of proper awareness about special institutions, parents could not get admission for their children to these centres. His department was creating awareness among citizens about these institutions through campaigns.

The minister said the Punjab government was providing free books, a monthly stipend of Rs800, pick and drop facility, uniforms and hostel facility to the differently abled students. The department had recovered 104 kanals of state land in Lahore from illegal occupants on which a sports city for the differently abled persons would be constructed, he announced.

He further said the financial affairs of these education institutions would be looked after by the department itself instead of school education, which will help in coping up with the problems.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2020

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