KARACHI: The Sindh government has decided to provide ‘transport facilities’ to female students from remote areas of the province to reduce the dropout ratio among female students. This was announced by Sindh Education Minister Syed Sardar Shah while addressing the budget session in the Sindh Assembly on Monday.
“This facility will be given to female students enrolled in government secondary schools. This will not only provide security, but can improve the dropout ratio,” said Shah. According to him, this scheme will initially be launched in mountainous areas and in desert areas like Tharparkar, Umerkot, Kamber Shahadkot, and Jamshoro districts. Later, the same project will be replicated in other parts of Sindh.
Briefing about the project, the education minister said, “Under this scheme, those schools of rural areas will be short-listed where girls face difficulties in attending classes due to the lack of transport facilities, which makes parents reluctant to send their daughters to school.” He added that this project will be launched under the public-private partnership model, soon after the budget for the year 2019-20 is passed.
Speaking of other initiatives for female students, the education minister said that his department has also allocated a Rs800 million stipend for female students. “We are working on 35 model schools with all basic facilities and will also introduce online teaching in some areas,” he said.
During the discussion on budget, opposition members criticised the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government for giving nothing to Sindh except garbage, water shortage, unemployment, lawlessness, bad governance and corruption. Nand Kumar Goklani of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) lashed out at the education department for failing to maintain quality education in the province.
Referring to teachers’ tests conducted by IBA Sukkur, he said, “Despite spending billons of rupees, the quality of our education system is deteriorating with each passing day. Out of the 36,000 candidates, who appeared in the teachers test, only 2,000 passed the written test.” Goklani demanded the resignation of those ministers who have failed to deliver in their respective sectors.
Goklani raised the issue of minorities and peasants and demanded the government to implement the Tenancy Act and set up courts for farmers. He accused the minority affairs minister of allocating most of the funds for his hometown, Mirpurkhas, and ignoring other areas.
“This house had earlier passed my bill against forced conversions but the Sindh government succumbed to pressure from religious groups and parties, and asked the then governor to not give assent,” he remarked. “The governor returned the bill expressing serious concern over a few clauses. I have submitted this bill again taking into consideration the governor’s reservations and request all lawmakers in the house to support me so that we can pass this law,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Seema Zia of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in her fiery speech, questioned why the Sindh government had failed to implement laws. “We have passed dozens of laws, but implementation on the same seems to be a distant dream,” she said. According to Dr Zia, Sindh government’s performance in the past 11 years has been “abysmal”.
“Could you please tell us of a single successful project in the province?” she demanded. Dr Zia gave the example of the Sindh Health Care Commission which has been launched but has been non-functional. “The commission was supposed to take action against quacks, but it is all in vain,” she remarked.
Sharing the findings of a survey which revealed a dismal picture of health facilities in Sindh, she said that there is only one doctor available for every 3,000 patients, one nurse per 12,000 patients and one bed available per 1,500 patients in the province.
In response, Mumtaz Jakhrani of the PPP lauded the performance of his government and quoted a few schemes from the budget books. He said that the Sindh government has set precedent by launching extraordinary projects. The establishment of ‘Science Museums’ in Karachi and Larkana, 660MW electricity from the Thar coal project and a transport facility for female students are among such initiatives, he said.
Jakhrani’s speech irked Muttahida Qaumi Movemnet-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) Khawaja Izharul Hassan who drew the house’s attention towards the words, ‘tax free budget’ and said, “You have set the target of recovering Rs48 billion by imposing taxes on garbage lifting, parking, taxi services and cold storage. So please don’t fool us,” he said.
Ghulam Qadir Chandio of the PPP, Malik Shahzad of PTI, Nasir Hussain Qureshi of MQM-P also spoke on the budget. Later, the speaker adjourned the session till today [Tuesday].
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2019.