The Sindh government and its education officials took the rap at an all parties conference on education organised by Alif Ailaan and Sindh Community Foundation on Saturday.
The speakers, which included politicians, educationists and civil society activists, addressed a number of problems at the conference including the degenerating state of education. According to Alif Ailaan’s survey, almost 50 per cent of the 1.2 million population of children aged between five and 16 years are not enrolled in schools. Among them, 56 percent are girls. Further, the dropout rate from primary to secondary stage of education is around 30 per cent.
“The Sindh government has failed to improve the education system,” said Sindh Taraqi Pasand party’s chairperson, Dr Qadir Magsi. “Foreign donors should set up schools that, besides imparting education, also provide free boarding, books, uniforms and meals.” He added that the donors from the UK and the US should establish a chain of schools in Sindh similar to the Danish schools in the Punjab.
Dr Magsi also said that he felt that the provincial government’s failure to provide quality education has strengthened the madressa education system in Sindh, which has presented itself as an alternative.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Functional’s MPA Mehtab Akbar Rashdi said all the MPAs have signed the Alif Ailaan declaration to work for education reforms. “But the question is who will implement the reforms?” she questioned, criticising the provincial government.
Jami Chandio of the Centre for Peace and Civil Society opposed the new appointments of the government teachers. He said that the focus should be on improving the teaching skills of the existing teachers to ensure quality education to the students already enrolled in the schools. “The government should ban the new appointments for the next five years and till then engage institutions, such as Sukkur IBA, to train the existing teachers.”
He proposed that a six-month training course followed by a skills test should be introduced in order to achieve this. Chandio also criticised the education ministry saying that it was acting like a job providing agency instead of fulfilling its responsibility of providing education reforms.
Mustafa Baloch of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation asked the associations representing the government school and college teachers to monitor and expose the absentee teachers and to cancel their membership. He blamed the state for being responsible for the degradation in the education system.
Civil society activist and columnist, Zulfiqar Halepoto found the lack of political will on part of the Sindh government as the root cause of the problems in the education system. “The students, parents and the civil society can only draw the government’s attention towards the issues affecting the education. It is the latter which has to act to address them.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2014.