KARACHI: District South of Karachi may not see any stark improvement in education in the next five years as candidates of leading political parties could not share any concrete programme to improve the status of education in the district at an event organised at the Arts Council of Pakistan on Thursday.

As many as 12 candidates contesting for National Assembly or Sindh Assembly seats from District South participated in the event where they were supposed to discuss their education plan. However, none of them was able to provide a concrete plan for the improvement of education in the district.

A non-governmental organisation (NGO), Alif Ailaan, organised a multi-party convention to discuss the failing state of education in District South and analyse the next five-year education plans of some contesting candidates from the district.

Sharing district statistics, Alif Ailaan media head Shahab Siddiqi said there were 300 government schools in the district, of which 61% were primary and 39% secondary. At least 30 schools in the district did not have water provision, whereas, 50 schools functioned without power.

The drop-out rate in the district is one of the highest, Siddiqi said.  Around 7,555 are enrolled in class one yearly, of whom hardly 413 are able to reach intermediate level. “These are the numbers of the government of Sindh,” he asserted.

Political parties restate their commitment to education at landmark conference

After the figures were shown on a slide, the contestants were asked to share their five-year plan on education. The most surprising statement came from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate for one of the NA seat from the district, Abdul Aziz Memon, who demanded the handover of primary and secondary education to local governments, contrary to his party’s stance.

“In the entire world, education is with the local government department,” Memon said. He, however, did not share his agenda for education for the next five years.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf NA candidate Dr Arfi Alvi boasted about his performance during the last tenure but did not share what he would do if elected. He said all parties should show equal interest in education and accepted that physical infrastructure of schools was unsatisfactory in District South.

Dr Alvi, however, was the only participant who had brought a PowerPoint presentation with him in which he showed how a government school in his constituency was adopted by him and an agreement was signed with the Sindh government, according to which the The Citizens Foundation would run the school for seven years with the assistance of the MNA and MPA concerned.

According to the PTI leader, the quality of education improved after the school was adopted. In 2015, 29 students failed, whereas, only three failed in 2017, he said.

Afnanullah from the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) opined that plagiarism and cheating was the biggest challenge to deal with in primary and secondary education. “We want our children to cram for exams,” he said.

PML-N’s Sheikh Jawed was of the view that a major reason behind the high drop-out in schools was their dilapidated infrastructure that was not being addressed. He lamented that mathematics teachers in Sindh did not know how to do maths and English teachers could not speak English. However, he also did not share his plan to address such issues.

Students outreach programme gains momentum

Social activist Jibran Nasir, who is independently contesting from District South, criticised the PPP government for imposing education emergency in the province only on paper. The government allocated Rs11 billion for primary education, released Rs5 billion and spent only Rs3 billion, he said.

Between 2013 and 2018, 1,500 private schools have surfaced in Sindh, Nasir said. He appreciated Dr Alvi and his party for their efforts to run a government school through an NGO but pointed out that it was not the job of NGOs. “Will we use TCF or private sector in every school?” he asked.

Nasir also partially explained his next five-year plan for education. “We knock at every door to ask for votes but why don’t we ask people after elections [by knocking at every door] if their children go to school,” he said, adding that the MPAs and MNAs have the capacity to do so and that is what he would do if he was elected.

Mubashir Imam from Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) did not share his five-year education plan. Fauzia Kasuri of the PSP said that it was not necessary for the MNAs or MPAs to get funds. The local government elected representatives should be given all funds, she said. Kasuri also did not inform the gathering about her strategy.

Jamaat-e-Islami’s Muhammad Hussain Mehanti spoke about how Europe prospered due to education but did not share his programme.