The education facilities in PS-86 in Thatta improved after the involvement of the area's political representative as it was placed first among Thatta's five provincial constituencies in a survey done by Alif Ailaan and the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-Saps).
This was shared by I-Saps resource person Ahmed Ali while giving a presentation at an all-parties’ consultative meeting on the Challenges and Opportunities in Sindh Education Sector — Role of Political Parties on Wednesday.
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Giving the example of Thatta, Ali demonstrated how the conditions in education sector can improve if political representatives and civil society play their role. The constituency was facing a lack of teachers and facilities such as boundary walls, toilets and furniture, which was improved upon by MPA Shah Hussain Shah Shirazi and other local leaders.
The presentation showed that education reforms in Sindh is both a technical and political issue because of the government's education policy, its financial situation, ideology and recommendations from international donor agencies, such as USAID and Unicef. The presentation stated that 22 per cent of the total budget has been reserved for education reforms in the province and the establishment of projects, such as the Sindh Education Sector Plan and District Education Group, are positive steps to improve the state of education in the province.
"Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan states that the state is responsible for providing compulsory and free education to children aged five to 16," Ali pointed out. Presenting the demands on behalf of general voters, he demanded the Sindh government monitor the use of the budget allocated for education reforms.
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He called for standardised tests for students of classes five and eight and a discussion of their results to be carried out in the provincial assembly. The standing committee on school education should give its feedback on the results from which the education policy for the next year and the teachers training programme can be planned.
Other demands included the government working towards education planning up to district levels throughout the province and a reform support unit to monitor results according to the provincial constituencies.
Ali said the total number of schools in the province is 46,784, out of which only 10 per cent provide middle- and secondary-level education, while 90 per cent are primary schools. He appreciated the government's decision to increase the education budget but requested strict monitoring of its usage.
Reaction of political parties
Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz MPA Shafi Jamot said the condition of education in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has improved after the reforms by the present provincial government. But in Sindh, Jamot claimed that education is taken as a joke both by the Sindhi and Urdu-speaking people of the province.
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Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid leader Haleem Adil Sheikh agreed. It is only because of politicians that students are now involved in other activities, he said. "We asked them to leave classrooms and come on the roads so that the roads can be blocked," he lamented.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA Nighat Shakeel was of the view that the government's interest lies in the National Action Plan and not in education. She said it is because of the lack of political will that Pakistan is only above Nigeria when it comes to education facilities. For her, education is an investment for future generations of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2015.
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