MINGORA: “The K-P government has taken education woes seriously and allocated Rs111 billion for the uplift of the sector,” said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Fazal Hakim. He was addressing a roundtable conference organised by NGOs Alif Ailaan and Innovative Youth Forum in Saidu Sharif on Sunday.
A large number of social activists, education department officials and lawmakers attended the event aimed at raising awareness about the education woes plaguing the valley. Hakim urged the private sector to join hands with the government to forward the cause and assured full support in every aspect. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) MNA Ayesha Syed expressed delight over the enthusiasm of the youth and its active participation in society. “Everyone should unite for the cause. It is the only way forward,” she noted.
Leaving girls behind
Alif Ailaan manager Sajjad Changezi said the gender imbalance in the rapidly shrinking number of enrolled students is alarming. “Only 2% of girls reach intermediate level in Swat,” he said. Changezi underscored the need to hold a conference every three months and evaluate the steps that are being taken by both the public and the private sector.
Lack of facilities
“There was a time when Swat was among the top five districts in education rankings in the province. Today it stands at 14th place,” said Innovative Youth Forum Chairman Dr Jawad Iqbal Yousafzai.
He said while there are 843 boys primary schools in the valley, only 433 primary schools are for girls. “At present, 8% of the schools are closed, 40% have no sanitation facilities, 24% have no restrooms, 44% do not have an access to electricity while 36% of the schools
do not even have boundary walls,” he added. Dr Yousufzai noted only 21% of primary school students can read the national language. He cited staff absenteeism and ghost employment as a key reason for the substandard quality of education. “43% of the schoolteachers remained absent from work during the month of September,” he said.
Deputy District Education Officer Zulfiqarul Mulk said the valley has a literacy rate of merely 28%.
“The rate for women is far lower, ranging from 7% to 10%,” he maintained. Mulk highlighted a lack of facilities and staff at the department itself and said Swat has only eight monitoring officers with only one vehicle to use.
“60% of the schools lack clerical staff. Political parties press for transfers and appointments all the time,” he lamented.
Accommodation for staff
Education department in charge Ishrat Parveen underscored hurdles faced by female schoolteachers.
“The teachers cannot commute to far-flung areas every day. We need a policy change in this regard,” she said. Parveen suggested the provision of accommodation for staff and a revision of appointment procedures.
“Teachers portray medicine and engineering as the only viable professions,” said Ali Roy, a youth representative, highlighting the need for career counselling.
Swat Assistant Commissioner Syed Nawab assured full support from the district administration in any projects initiated to uplift the education sector in the valley.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2014.