Public education: ‘NGOs running public schools to the ground’

Published: December 16, 2015
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

MULTAN: 

Greater intrusion in the education sector by NGOs, under the banner of public-private partnership, has worsened education standards rather than improving them, Punjab Teachers’ Union District Multan president Rana Altaf Hussain said a press conference on Tuesday. “The government must not hand over public schools to NGOs.”

Hussain said instead of going through with the plan to hand over public schools to the private sector, the government should first check how the schools, handed over to NGOs earlier, have fared under their management. “Greater role of NGOs in the education sector has in fact brought down the literacy rate in some areas.”

He said the government has had experience with collaborations involving NGOs and had doled out massive funds and grants to them. “There needs to be an accountability mechanism to see what the NGOs did with the funds.”

Hussain said the government would have to handle all expenses pertaining to infrastructure, restoration of buildings, salaries and appointments of teachers, and non-salary budget for schools anyway. “What’s the point of handing over management to the NGOs?”

He shared a case study of a public school in Lahore that had been handed over to an NGO. “The NGO had charge of the school for 15 years but there were no tangible or intangible gains…instead the NGO had only created more problems for the district administration.”

He said the Education Department had stringent recruitment criteria. Only teachers who have cleared NTS tests are hired, unlike some NGOs who hire fresh graduates at Rs5,000 per month, he said. “Sometimes NGOs hire more teachers than required and end up pressuring the administration.”

Hussain said there were barely any NGOs willing to take responsibility of schools in far-flung areas.

The PTU leader urged Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the education minister and the schools secretary to take notice of the issue and task the Education Department with improving education standards at public schools rather than handing them over to NGOs. He urged the authorities to draw up profiles of the institutes handed over to NGOs in the past and to check their performance.

He demanded a comprehensive audit of funds given to NGOs to see whether the funds had been spent on development or non-development projects.

“Most NGOs end up wasting funds on non-development projects and burden the public exchequer,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2015.

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