A party that feels Sindh should declare an 'education emergency' has taken it upon itself to find out just how bad the condition of its education sector is.
Awami Jamhoori Party's Save Education Committee conducted a 22-day-long survey in Hyderabad Rural taluka's Seri union council (UC) and found dismal results. Out of the 62 schools in the UC, 32 have been closed for nearly two years now. The ones that remain operational are in poor condition. "The teachers are mostly irregular," stated the report.
In fact, the party workers found that there are four schools that have 'visa teachers', which means the teachers appointed for these institutions have settled in the Middle-East and their families are drawing their salaries by greasing the palms of corrupt education officers. In two schools, the peons were teaching the children, said the report. In the entire UC, only five schools are following the minimum education standards
"After completing a 35-day long march on foot to demand good quality education in Sindh, we have started an assessment of primary schools at the union-council level in Sindh," said the party's head, Abrar Kazi, adding that all the party's district office-bearers are busy in this exercise. "After developing a database, we will mount pressure on the district administration to re-open the schools in their respective areas."
Until the survey is complete, the party has made arrangements to run the non-functional schools. "We have also adopted two schools in the UC by appointing our own teachers and providing furniture," said Kazi. Now, they will create monitoring teams to oversee the schools, he added.
Kazi admitted that his party does not have the resources to run all non-functional schools, the number of which may be in thousands. They will, however, stage sit-ins and hunger strikes in front of the district education office until the schools re-open.
The Save Education Committee report also stressed on the urgent need for repairs and renovation of functional schools in the UC as their roofs are on the verge of collapse. These schools do not have toilets, drinking water and other basic facilities, it stated, adding that students also need books and other teaching aids from the education department.
"For the last two years, we have been campaigning to put pressure on the government to declare education emergency in the province but all in vain," he said.
ALP women wing president Nazir Qureshi shared that they conducted a door-to-door survey to get an idea from the community, engage them in the process of re-opening schools so they can supervise them and take ownership.
There are about 517 primary, middle and high schools in Hyderabad's rural taluka that AJP has decided to work upon.
Meanwhile, the education and literary department website claims that only seven schools in Seri UC are closed but Hyderabad district's deputy education director Ghulam Qadir Wasan said the number was mistakenly quoted online.
"There are 11 UCs in Hyderabad's rural taluka and only one boys' school is closed," he said, calling the Save Education Committee report biased. "There is a shortage of teachers but all schools are functional," he insisted, adding that the incumbent government has taken strict measure and all ghost and non-functional schools have now been re-opened. "It seems like the survey team of AJP visited the union council after school timings."
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015.