HYDERABAD: Notwithstanding the auspicious concept of parents-led school management committee (SMC) for instituting overarching reforms in the government schooling, putting this theory into practice seems to be eluding the authorities.
While bottlenecks to the utility of the SMCs vary, a case study comprising 74 schools of an urban constituency of Hyderabad showed a lack of participation of the parents besides other encumbrances. Moreover, a convention titled ‘Voices of Parents’, organised on Friday night by Alif Ailaan upon conclusion of one of its projects in the PS-46 constituency, reinforced the assessment of parental detachment.
The SMCs were formed as a remedy to the management and quality monitoring problems in government schools so that the community can participate, take ownership of the schools and interest in solving the problems.
Among dozens of the participants at the event, only three persons raised their hands when the moderator of the event, Alif Ailaan coordinator Sajjad Changezi, asked how many parents were present in the hall. More discouragingly, none of them could muster the courage to express their views as over a dozen teachers from the audience articulated a range of issues of the government schools and the SMCs.
“The parents could contribute in the SMCs only when the teachers open doors of the schools to them,” observed Changezi, alluding that the teachers, including the headmasters and headmistresses, are responsible for parental indifference. “Unless the teachers don’t encourage them [parents], they will not come forward.”
He talked about the parent-to-teacher relation in private schools where the former can hold the latter accountable for quality of education. “In the private schools, the parents invest in the education of their children unlike the government schools where mostly the poor enrol their children for an education on the government’s expenses.”
According to Changezi, his organization distributed forms to each of the 74 government schools in PS-46. The forms required chairmen, which are parents, and secretaries, the heads of the schools, to provide comments about performance of the SMCs. However, he lamented, only 13 of these forms were filled by the parents. “Here, too, a majority seemed to be praising the school administration instead of pointing out the problems,” he said.
Shedding light on the impediments in the SMC budget utilisation, Sindh Education and Literacy Department Reform Support Unit (RSU) director Iqbal Memon said that hundreds of schools fail to spend money due to internal issues of the SMCs. “There are many schools in Hyderabad division that haven’t spent anything from the SMC budget for three years.” According to him, a sum of Rs266 million has been released for 10,000 schools in Hyderabad division under the head of SMC budget.
Hyderabad District Education Officer Akbar Memon asserted that political interference is the main hurdle in educational reforms. “In the past, quality of education was considered the service of the government schools,” he said. “Now, the criterion has changed to providing jobs of teachers to the political supporters as a measure of service delivery.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2016.