The issue of politically-motivated teacher appointments is the main reason why the public education system is in a state of dysfunction, said educationists at the ‘Teachers’ Conference, 2015’, held at the Mövenpick Hotel on Wednesday.
The conference was organised by the Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) whose managing director, Aziz Kabani, explained that the idea was to recognise the role and importance of teachers as agents of change as well as discuss the challenges faced by educators in order to improve the education system in the country.
Speaking on the menace of the prevailing political influence in the education sector, Dr Ishrat Husain, the dean and director of the Institute of Business Administration, recounted his experience of travelling through a village in Dera Ghazi Khan.
He saw a number of schoolchildren playing outside a beautifully constructed public school because it was locked up. He was told by the residents that the teachers were sent for by the elected representative from the district to do his household chores. “Those teachers were being paid a monthly salary of at least Rs15,000 by the government but they were at the service of the MNA who helped them secure the jobs,” said Dr Husain.
Only two kilometres away, a single volunteer, who was only a Matriculate and getting merely Rs3,000 from the community as her remuneration, was teaching 20 girls at an abandoned public school. To his surprise, the students were able to read and write what they were being taught.
For Dr Husain, the teaching profession should not just be perceived as a means of livelihood. “A teacher is required to have a penchant for learning and imparting the knowledge based on whatever he or she continuously strives to learn.”
Journalist Zubeida Mustafa agreed with Dr Husain as she argued that most of the ‘ghost teachers’ in the public education system were political appointees. “For this reason, they do not even commit to teaching in the first place,” she said.
Like any other respectable citizen, added Mustafa, the ‘good teachers’ are part of the civil society and they should resist the politically-motivated teachers’ appointments in education department in order to save the country’s future.
Sharing her experience of a teachers’ training project organised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Sadiqa Salahuddin, the executive director at the Indus Resource Centre, said that many teachers from the public sector were not worthy of stepping inside classrooms to impart education. “Despite being appointed by the education department for a long time, many of them have never bothered to face their students simply because they did not know how to teach.”
Salahuddin hoped that appointing teachers on merit and subsequent professional development programmes could improve the quality of education and learning.
Dr Abdul Hameed Sindhi, a former vice-chancellor at the Shah Abdul Latif University in Khairpur, argued that the socio-economic conditions surrounding the rural areas directly affect the quality of education being offered at the schools. “In any society, teachers are deemed as leaders, having an immense formative influence on children’s lives. They are expected to shape the future of the next generation,” he said. “Isn’t it ironic that the existing socio-economic conditions make the teachers perceived to be those who had no other options and choices in life?”
The conference was moderated by Prof Dr Bernadette Dean, director at the VM Institute for Education, and Dr Sajid Ali, assistant professor at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED).
The other speakers included Randy Hatfield, senior policy advisor at the USAID’s Sindh Basic Education Programme; Dr Muhammad Memon, a professor at the AKU-IED; Nargis Alvi, principal at the Habib Girls’ School; Prof Abbas Hussain, director at the Teachers’ Development Centre; Lt Gen (r) Moinuddin Haider, former Sindh Governor; and Tara Uzra Dawood, CEO at the Dawood Capital Management.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2015.