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Free education for children of terror victims sought

January 12, 2013

KARACHI, Jan 11: Private schools should provide education free of cost to the children of terrorism victims up to the Matric level. This was one of the suggestions made at a meeting of the Sindh education and literacy department steering committee that took several decisions at the NJV School building on Friday.

The suggestion put forward by former chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) Jamil Yusuf was unanimously taken up by private school representatives, various board people, teachers and other education stakeholders besides people from the education department attending the meeting.

On the occasion, Mr Yusuf and director of the institute of education development of the Aga Khan University (AKU) Dr Mohammad Memon were made new members of the steering committee.

“What happens to the school-going children of the victims, many of whom may be the only earning members of their families?”

Mr Yusuf questioned while speaking to Dawn following the meeting. “Therefore I thought it would be a very positive step taken by the education sector to provide support to their offspring,” he said. “I am glad to see a positive response to my suggestion,” he added.

Summer vacation from June 15

The summer vacation issue that caused confusion and disagreement between government and private schools last year was tackled in the meeting with both sectors now agreeing upon closing schools in the summer from June 15 till August 13 so that all schools are open on August 14 to celebrate Independence Day.

Sindh Senior Minister for Education and Literacy Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq explained later during a briefing that the summer vacation schedule would suit the next two to three years as after that the entire month of Ramazan would be covered during these days.

“Mr Jamil Yusuf was representing the private schools and was requested to consider this schedule as this time we have announced it well in advance unlike last year,” he said. “Both the government and private schools coming under the Cambridge system and the AKU Board have for now agreed on it,” he added.

The minister said it was decided that the steering committee would meet twice a year as it was not practical to plan everything in the educational calendar for the year ahead.

Other issues discussed during the meeting included board exam fees, late fee, attendance, junior class students’ assessment, centralised admission policy and students’ unions, exam centres and involvement of teachers in the election process.

Pir Mazhar said he was not in favour of teachers’ involvement in making voters’ lists and working in election centres. “Yes, they may be getting paid for this extra work but we have suggested to the government to kindly excuse them from such duties as it effects their real work, which is providing education,” he added.

About the exam centres, the minister said that all exams would be held in government school and college buildings while private institutions would be considered only where a shortage of government buildings was faced.

He said the centralised admission policy would continue to be followed but the affidavit taken from students declaring that they would refrain from politics had been discontinued.

“I have actively participated in student politics during my student days. It was a good extracurricular activity where we held healthy debates, etc. That’s where I got my leadership skills from and I want the same for the students of today,” said Pir Mazhar.

The minister said that each government college would publish its prospectus besides uploading it on their website so that students could make their choice of college without difficulty.

Exam commission

It was also said that there should be some attention paid to the junior classes. “There should be some kind of written assessment of Class II and III students. And for classes IV to VIII, we are setting up an exam commission of Sindh.”

The minister highlighted the need for increasing attendance at schools. “We are introducing a system where attendance of students will be checked by the education boards which will receive a copy of daily attendance for each month from schools.

Only those students with 75 per cent attendance will be issued examination forms. I know this will cause some problems too as many forms will get rejected in the first year of imposing the system but it will also form a good habit among children to attend school if they want to sit for their board exams,” he said.

About the increase in exam fees by certain boards, including the Sukkur board and the Board of Secondary Education, Karachi, the education minister said that they were questioned about this as the college fees was almost half of what they were asking.

“We also told their representatives to speak to their boards and reconsider this,” he said.

Another suggestion made at the meeting was related to the late fee system. “We want to stop the late fee system,” Pir Mazhar said, “fees should be paid on time and the various boards are to exercise their discretion for special cases only,” he explained.