HYDERABABD: Politicians contesting the general elections from Hyderabad seem well-aware of the problems marring public schools in the city. However, while sharing their views on the prevailing situation and road map for future reforms at an event in Hyderabad on Sunday, the candidates appeared to be at a loss.
The event, 'Election for Education', was organised by Alif Ailaan at Mumtaz Mirza Auditorium in the premises of the Sindh Museum. Candidates of all leading parties, except Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), attended the event. The organiser, Rohaina Malik, said that three election candidates of the PPP were invited but none of them turned up.
Hyderabad, which will elect three members for the National Assembly and six for the provincial assembly, has 868 schools. However, except 66 high schools and 16 higher secondary schools, the rest of these schools are mostly primary or middle schools.
Some 799 schools do not have science labs and 827 have no libraries. The district's 264 schools lack water supply while 234 lack electricity connections, 131 lack toilets and 121 do not have boundary walls.
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"The most corrupt ministers are given the education ministry," alleged Grand Democratic Alliance General Secretary Ayaz Latif Palijo, who is a candidate for PS-62. "Even the vice-chancellors of universities pay tens of millions of rupees for their appointment and as much money quarterly [in their four-year stint] to continue in the position," Palijo claimed.
He blamed the PPP for taking corruption to new heights in the education sector from the primary to tertiary level.
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal's candidate for PS-66 and a veteran politician, Moulana Abdul Waheed Qureshi, said the government has played a big role in destroying the quality of education. "During all these years, merit has been strangled in Sindh. Teaching is a noble profession, but in Sindh, jobs are sold for money."
Qureshi, who is an educationist himself, believed that until corruption is not rooted out of the system, the quality of education and state of facilities in government schools will not improve.
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He deplored that the education about Islam and the life and sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) are being constantly expunged from the syllabus under pressure from Western donors.
Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan - Noorani chief Sahibzada Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair, a former MNA who is contesting from NA-227, said his party's manifesto is to implement Nizam-e-Mustafa (PBUH). "Under this religious system, education acquires paramount importance because the divine revelations on Prophet (PBUH) started with the word iqra [read]."
He also deplored that the successive governments, over the last few decades, have only contributed to the degradation of education. "The government schools lack water, toilets, classrooms, boundary walls, electric supply, playgrounds and other facilities only because of corruption."
"During the last 10 years of the PPP's government, we only saw regression instead of progress in the provincial government's departments," argued Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan's (MQM-P) candidate for NA-226, Sabir Qaimkhani, a former MPA. He shared the case of Government College Kali Mori in Hyderabad, which completed 100 years of its establishment last year but the PPP kept dragging its feet in according university status to the college.
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Qaimkhani said they kept pressuring the PPP's government pointing out that Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have elevated three colleges to the level of university after the varsities completed 100 years of establishment. "But the PPP belatedly announced in October, 2017, that Kali Mori college will be made a university and we passed a bill days before the end of the Sindh Assembly's term. However, nothing has been done so far to implement the bill," Qaimkhani lamented.
Pak Sarzameen Party's candidate for PS-66, Syed Ahmed Rashid, proposed that all private sector schools should be nationalised and a uniform system of education should be introduced in Pakistan.
"[If elected] I will table Huqooq-e-Hyderabad [rights of Hyderabad] bill in the National Assembly which will include the right to education," said Q Muhammad Hakim of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, who is contesting from NA-227. He opposed the expenditure on the construction or repair of schools from the development funds given to the MNAs and MPAs, contending that building and maintaining schools is solely the responsibility of the federal and provincial governments.
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He contended that the availability of competent teachers is more important than a school's infrastructure as greater significance is currently being given to the latter. Hakim, who is also an educationist, defended the private schools saying they are shouldering the responsibility of providing quality education.
Muhammad Rashid Khilji, former MPA and MQM-P's candidate for PS 66, said his party will table a resolution to make it incumbent on lawmakers and public servants to educate their children in public schools.
The election candidates signed a charter of demands for education which was prepared by the organiser. Increasing the number of middle, high and higher-secondary schools, construction of boundary walls, maintaining cleanliness inside and outside the schools, establishing science labs and efficient use of school budgets were among the many demands made in the charter.
The charter of demands also called upon the government and upcoming legislators from Hyderabad to build playgrounds in all schools and stop the menace of cheating during exams.