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NWFP, Kashmir school reconstruction project

1.64 million school reconstruction project launched
Islamabad, Feb 12: A school reconstruction project worth 1.64 million pounds has been launched by Save the Children, providing access to 2,200 students in the districts of Azad Jammu & Kashmir and NWFP, affected by the 2005 earthquake.

Funded by the UK's Department for International Development (DfID), the project will facilitate 600 boys and 900 girls to primary education, followed by 250 girls to middle and 450 girls to secondary schools. Under this project, 18 schools will be reconstructed in one and a half years, says a press release.

An important activity of this project is raising awareness and preparedness on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). As AJK, NWFP and the adjoining areas are prone to natural catastrophes like earthquakes, it is vital to prepare children and communities to safely evacuate and provide first aid in the wake of any unseen tragedy. This will be achieved through training and mock drills by experts in the field of DRR.

Additionally, the project will be focusing on improving the quality of education provided in these schools through sports and extra-curricular activities. "Our aim is to make education an enjoyable experience for all children," said Mohammad Qazilbash, Country Director Save the Children.

"The education sector was hit hardest by the devastating earthquake on October 8, 2005. The grim statistics of more than 18,000 children and 850 teachers lost, and over 6,165 educational facilities destroyed illustrate this fact very clearly," he added.

He said the earthquake was a major catastrophe, but it presented a unique opportunity to improve children's access to quality education in the affected areas. Through various interventions in the education sector, Save the Children was able to bring more than 65,000 children back in schools in Mansehra, Muzaffarabad and Bagh districts. Six high schools and nine primary and middle schools were constructed in Muzaffarabad, while 88 transitional schools were constructed in Manshera to redress the educational needs of the vulnerable children.

"Our efforts to rejuvenate the education system in the affected areas have provided training opportunities to teachers on child-friendly teaching methods. Through this project, we aim to enhance the teaching skills of 74 teachers and improve the overall quality of education in the rebuilt schools," Qazilbash continued.

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Regulatory authorities for private schools
Peshawar: To check the standard of private educational institutions, the NWFP government has decided to withdraw the authority of registration and monitoring of the private schools from the boards of intermediate and secondary education and formulate regulatory authorities for the purpose both at provincial and district levels.

A proposal has already been made to this effect and the regulatory bodies will be formed very soon, said an official at the Elementary and Secondary Education Department.

He said the aim was to streamline the private schools and improve the standard of education there.

He said strict action would be taken against the schools if the rules pertaining to admission and registration of the institutions were violated. He said the committee would pay surprise visits to the schools to know about their functioning and see if they were promoting education or just running commercial enterprises.

Another official at the Education Department told this correspondent that the bodies would help improve educational system in the private sector. He said the private educational institutions were no doubt playing an important role in promotion of education in the province. But he argued that the mushrooming of the private institutions and commercial thinking of a number of school owners was having adverse effect on educational system in the province.

He said the process for registration of the schools was proper and tough. But it was not being followed by the schoolowners and certain government officials, resulting in serious problems. It merits a mention here that successive governments have made experiments to have a proper check on the private educational institutions, but all such efforts failed to bear effective results.

Earlier, the executive district officers were responsible for the registration and monitoring of the private schools in the NWFP. The previous government comprising MMA-linked Islamic parties assigned the duty to the boards of intermediate and secondary education while the present ANP-PPP coalition government is forming separate authorities for the purpose. The news

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Students bear the brunt of curriculum changes
Peshawar: The students of government-run schools in NWFP are bearing brunt of the government's decision to introduced major changes in their courses as the teachers feel difficulties in teaching the new courses, sources say.

The government introduced major changes in courses meant for students of grade VI to grade X about three years ago, however, teachers' concept was not clear about different topics, a teacher said.

He said that education department didn't arrange refreshers for teachers to update them about the new courses. "Refresh courses for teachers are very important to educate them about the newly introduced subjects and build up their capacity," a teacher, wishing not to be named said.

He posed a question as to how students could understand a topic when the concept of teachers was not clear about many topics and chapters introduced in the revised courses. "If teachers don't understand a chapter, how they will teach it to students?" he added.

Citing an example of the misconception of his colleagues, another teacher said that the topic of "Pollution" was introduced in the course of grade IX but most of the teachers even didn't know the definition of the word. "The students are taught that pollution means dust and garbage," he added.

He said that government could not achieve its objectives linked with the introduction of changes in courses without arranging refreshers for teachers. "If teachers are interested in refresh courses then it should be imposed on them," he suggested.

Whenever, some NGOs arranged training courses for teachers, the executive district officers (Education) used to select their blue-eyed boys just to award them honoraria, he alleged.

Elementary and Secondary Education Additional Secretary Qaiser Alam Khan, when contacted, said that government had established a separate wing Regional Institutes for Teacher Education (RITE) for the teachers' training. Prior to the establishment of the RITE, he said, there were some flaws regarding selection of teachers for training, but now they had been removed. "Now we have computerised data of teachers and select each teacher for the refresh courses of their relevant subject. There is no chance to select a teacher twice for the same course," he claimed.

Each year, he said, education department arranged refresh courses for about 3,000 teachers. Secondly refresh courses had been made mandatory for teachers and those avoiding such courses would be punished and their promotion would also be stopped, he added. Dawn

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Regular classes at NUML
Islamabad: Regular classes at National University of Modern Languages (NUML) will commence from February 15 (Monday) following the settlement of a dispute between two senior staffers.

The matter involving thrashing of a senior teacher by the registrar was resolved after the resignation of the registrar as per demands of students and academic staff.

Talking to this agency, NUML Director General Dr. Kamran said the university management has settled the issue to restore dignity of the teacher and no one will dare to humiliate teachers in future.

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Dynamics of Higher Education
Islamabad: It is highly unfortunate that education and health are the most neglected sectors in Pakistan. The policymakers should rethink and prioritise their policies, and instead of building castles and palaces, must focus on building quality academic institutions.

Higher Education Commission (HEC) Member Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed said this while speaking at a seminar on 'Research-based Funding Opportunities at HEC and New Dynamics of Higher Education Sector' at the International Islamic University (IIU) here on Thursday.

"The developed countries spend over 10 per cent of their GDP on education whereas Pakistan has never ever spent more than one per cent of its GDP on this sector, which resulted in just 4,000 PhDs in the whole country," Dr Mukhtar said and added that the overall budget of all educational institutions in Pakistan is less than that of the National University of Singapore.

He said that the HEC, which was earlier called University Grants Commission, was reshaped and renamed as the Higher Education Commission in 2002, which realised the core problem and focused on imparting quality education. "The HEC chalked out a 15-year vision to boost higher education in all spheres of life. Being well aware of its responsibilities, it opened its doors for such activities not only in the country but abroad as well," he said and added that the HEC also focused on human resource development and allocated 55 per cent of its resources for this very vital area.

Dr. Mukhtar said that the HEC has connected the whole university system in the country with the latest equipped internet system but unfortunately, the faculty members lag behind the desired goals. He urged the faculty members to come forward with their community-oriented research proposals to solve the issues being faced by the country.

IIU President Dr. Anwar Hussain Siddiqui in his speech thanked the HEC for its continuous support to the university. He advised the faculty members to benefit from the HEC's reshaped policies to excel in their research activities.

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RMC 8th convocation
Rawalpindi: Rawalpindi Medical College would hold its 8th convocation for the medical graduates of 2007-08 here on March 2. The graduates would be presented degrees and awards.The convocation committee held a meeting here Wednesday to review the arrangements being made for the occasion.

College of Physicians and Surgeons President Professor Zafar Ullah Chaudhry would be the chief guest on the occasion. The review meeting was presided by Professor Dr. Faisal G Bhopal.

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FJWU Fine arts show
Rawalpindi: The bachelors and masters students of the Fatima Jinnah Women University's (FJWU) Fine Arts Department arranged an exquisite display of their thesis works here on Thursday.

The students explored unique themes in various fields. The show featured art objects in the fields of oil painting, miniature, calligraphy, textile, drafting, sculpture, graphic designing, conceptual art, printmaking, ceramics and photography.

In the discipline of graphic design, the students displayed an advertising campaign of a famous tea brand, which was one of its kind. The students worked on dynamic art pieces, coloured with Islamic influences of art in calligraphy, using digital imaging and other mediums.

In textile designing, a student beautifully applied the soul of Japanese art, motifs and designs in her work, making it worth watching.

The artworks exhibited in the show were supervised by FJWU Fine Arts Department Chairperson Dr. Tabassum Shaheen, Haleem Dad, Rashida Faridi, Rasheed Butt, Raheela Mushtaq, Memoona Akram, Kamran Babrak, Lubna Khatoon, Tahira and Aqeel Solangi.

While inaugurating the exhibition, FJWU Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Saeeda Asadullah Khan appreciated the works put on display by students and asked them to work harder and explore the inventiveness within them. She added that the fine arts course also provides them an opportunity to meet professionals in the field. The news

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