KARACHI: The shocking findings of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2013 had ultimately prompted the Sindh Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro to cry out in alarm: “Let some heads be chopped but we must save Sindh’s education system.”
On Saturday, he was speaking at a seminar organised by the Sindh education department at the Regent Plaza to devise a strategy for a way out of the current education crisis in the province.
“I do not want to be remembered as the minister in whose time this report came and he did nothing,” said Khuhro as the audience optimistically believed it to be a new beginning. “If primary education is gone, the foundation is gone. We cannot leave 75 per cent of our youth either to rot, succumb to crimes and drugs or commit suicide.”
Explaining the background and reason behind the seminar, Khuhro said that the report had served as an eye-opener for almost everybody who was concerned about education. “I will go to each and every village across the province, the way I had campaigned against the Kala Bagh dam, so that my people will know about the gravity of the situation,” vowed the education minister.
“I am sorry,” said the Sindh chief minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, who was presiding over the event. “Though we have been in the government for the last six years and attempted to do our best, I concede that we could not meet the expectations of the people of Sindh.”
The chief minister, however, assured the education minister that whatever commitments had been made by the government in the Sindh Assembly regarding free and compulsory education, will be fulfilled. “We will provide no excuse to the children and their parents to not avail a good education.”
Meanwhile, subsequent to the provincial launch of the survey report on February 11, a group of former vice-chancellors at the provincial universities had gathered under the platform of Sindh Education Improvement Plan (SEIP). The team had met the education minister and secretary on February 13 to table practical proposals for improvement.
Led by former Sindh University vice chancellor, Prof Mazharul Haq Siddiqui, the SEIP proposed that the education department should nominate taluka and district monitoring committees to randomly visit 10 schools each week. The committees would report to the education secretary on his monitoring database system for appreciation or action. Each committee would comprise seven members, including a well-reputed retired educationist, a lawyer, a human rights activist, an officer of the education department, one of the students’ parents, a media person and an officer of grade 17 from administration.
Accepting the proposal, Khuhro said that he will not hesitate to take disciplinary action as per rules, particularly against the officers whose duty was to inspect schools and take action or report if any teacher was absent and also at the same time help train those teachers who are willing to work but cannot teach properly. “From now on, no recommendation [sifarish] will be accepted. I will immediately suspend the officer who will approach for the same,” said Khuhro.
The chief minister, education minister, government officials, eminent educationists as well as civil society members formally made an oath as the hall echoed with their voices with the following words: “I take oath on my Holy book that from this moment onwards, I shall do everything to help improve the education system in Sindh and Pakistan. If I am an education department officer, I must do my duty as defined. If I am a politician, I shall not in any way try to exert influence in educational matters. If I am a civil society or media member, my role will be positive and helpful and if I am a teacher, I take double oath to teach in the best possible manner.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2014.