The country’s top court on Thursday took notice on the miserable conditions of public schools and directed the provincial governments to take immediate measures to improve the situation on a priority basis.
The court directed the Punjab government to appear in the court on Friday and submit a detailed report on the situation.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, issued the directives while hearing a suo motu case.
The chief justice observed that a large number of schools in the country are in a shambles and students are being forced to study without any shelter.
The chief justice also took notice on the issue of divisional public school teachers who are being paid Rs4,500 a month; lower than the minimum wage under the country’s labour laws.
“This is exploitation and a violation of the Constitution,” Justice Chaudhry remarked, adding that the government should raise the teachers’ salaries or close down the schools if they cannot pay respectable salaries to teachers.
The court also expressed doubt over a report submitted by the Punjab government on enrolment and facilities at its schools.
The report, submitted by Sargodha Commissioner on behalf of the provincial chief secretary, said that the education department has launched a 100% enrolment campaign and ensured provision of free textbooks to all students between the age of five and 16.
Regarding teachers’ salaries, the commissioner said the issue would be resolved soon as a meeting was being held to settle the matter.
He sought a few days from the judges, but they declined his request and directed the chief secretary and Punjab deputy advocate general to appear before the court on Friday (today).
The chief justice also observed that the court had directed the Punjab government to convert divisional public schools into Daanish schools, but the order was not implemented.
Responding to the bench’s query, the Punjab Additional Advocate General Jawad Hassan said that the Punjab government has spent Rs350 million on Daanish schools so far and the cost of running each school was roughly Rs1.5 million. He told that Daanish school teachers were getting a salary of Rs25,000 per month.
Meanwhile, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government’s report, said that a large number of schools in the province had been destroyed from disasters and militancy.
The report said that a total of 2,905 schools were damaged during the 2005 earthquake, out of which only 1,141 schools have been rehabilitated so far.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.