The Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) and the Cholistan Development Authority (CDA) on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to provide free education to almost 4,500 students enrolled in 75 non-formal community schools in Cholistan area in Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan districts.
The MOU was signed at the Bahawalpur district coordination office and DCO Imran Sikandar Baloch, CDA Managing Director Iqbal Hussain, PEF Managing Director Dr Aneela Salman and PEF Finance Deputy Managing Director Salman Anwar Malik. The MOU was signed by Hussain and PEF Director Waqar Azeem on behalf of their organisations. The schools will be monitored under the PEF’s New School Programme.
Salman said that the PEF will give the CDA Rs360 for each student for first three months. After that, the organisations will enter a long-term tri-partite arrangement to ensure that the students, most of whom belong to the low-income strata, continue to receive free education.
According to the agreement, 3,000 girls and 1,500 boys will be provided free education till matriculation level.
Under the MOU, junior teachers at these schools will be paid Rs7,000 and the senior teachers Rs8,000 per month, she said. The PEF will also organise capacity building workshops to improve the standards of teaching at these schools, Salman said.
The PEF will also ensure that the students are provided drinking water and clean toilets at these schools. Salman shared several educational interventions and initiatives of the PEF and said that she hoped the MOU would translate into quality education for the students of community schools in Cholistan.
The PEF is committed to promoting free education for marginalised communities in the Punjab and will continue to serve the under-privileged with zeal, Salman said.
Earlier, Hussain said that the community schools had initially been launched under the Literate Cholistan Project. The project ended but the community schools will continue to provide children education with support from the PEF, he said.
Later, Finance Deputy Managing Director Salman Anwar Malik presented a cheque for Rs1.16 million to Hussain – the first monthly instalment for the community schools.
Scores of Cholistan community schools teachers on Friday held a rally in protest against the government’s decision to hand over the community schools to the PEF.
The protesters said that they carried out their duties faithfully amid harsh weather conditions and without sufficient resources. “Instead of regularising our services the government has now handed over the schools to a non-profit organisation,” a protester said.
DCO Imran Sikandar and CDA Managing Director Iqbal Hussain later spoke with the teachers.
Sikander said the earlier junior teachers were being paid Rs2,500 and senior teachers Rs5,000. The salaries had been increased to Rs7,000 and Rs8,000 respectively.
“It is up to the teachers to decide whether they want to continue teaching in these schools or not,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2014.