KARACHI, March 14: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday called for structural improvements in the funding, management and oversight of educational institutions in Sindh to improve education both qualitatively and quantitatively. He also called upon the Sindh government to develop its separate power policy as permission to the provinces to develop power projects under 50 megawatts had already been given in the power policy of 2002.

President Zardari made these observations during two separate meetings he presided over in the Bilawal House pertaining to education and power in the province.

The meetings were attended by the Sindh chief minister, provincial ministers and senior federal and provincial government officials.

Briefing journalists, spokesperson for the president Farhatullah Babar said the president sought another meeting within a month on these issues in which the relevant ministries would give a briefing on the progress made in the implementation of the directives.

He said the pathetic state of education came to light when the briefing on education was informed that of the 11 million school-age children in the province only 6.4 million were enrolled, leaving over 4.5 million children out of schools.

Twenty per cent of the schools had no building at all, 45 per cent comprised only one room or two and over 60 per cent of the schools had just one teacher or two. About 60 per cent of the schools in the province had no access to safe drinking water, the briefing was informed.

The president tasked the provincial education minister to prepare a comprehensive and workable plan and propose steps to meet what he described as an education emergency in the province.

Mr Zardari said the idea of entering into management partnership with the private sector should be explored for an efficient running of the schools.

He also called for the adoption of innovative ways to generate funds and improve oversight of the educational institutions.

“The situation that over 4.5 million children simply are not enrolled and over 60 per cent schools have just one or two teachers points to some fundamental flaws in the system that needs to be addressed on an emergency basis,” Mr Babar quoted the president as saying.

The president said the DFID had allocated 80 million pounds for the development of education in the province over the next five years through the Sindh Education Fund that would be set up as a nonprofit company under the companies ordinance.

However, assistance from the fund would be given to only those educational institutions which fulfilled the basic minimum criteria developed for the purpose.

He also asked the provincial education department to gear up to meet the basic minimum criteria to be eligible for DFID assistance. He also called for beefing up rural schools by diverting revenues from each Deh to the development of education in addition to DFID support.

The president called for another meeting within a month on the subject to discuss steps taken by the provincial government in this regard.

At the meeting on the power and gas situation, the president directed the provincial government to develop its own separate power policy to meet its growing energy demands. He said that under the power policy of 2002 provinces could develop power projects under 50MW on their own. He called for another meeting within a month to examine the progress made on the separate power plan and setting up of generation boards in the province.