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Pakistan Education Task Force's positive step

PCE suggested stakeholders involvement in PETF
Islamabad, Dec 21: Terming the formation of Pakistan Education Task Force (PETF) a positive step in the direction of quality and accessible education, the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) suggested that the government should involve all stakeholders including general public in the process.

In a press release issued on Sunday, the PCE noted that since the very task force is created to lend support to ongoing initiatives cantered on public, it appears to have had not taken into account the insight and opinions of the people. "The PCE is also interested to know as to what propelled government to appoint Michael Barber as the co-chair of the PETF."

The PCE is a coalition of civil society partners and individuals joined together to raise voice on the issues surrounding the education sector in Pakistan. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has set up this task force on the recommendation of Education Ministry. The purpose of the task force is to support the development of policy and strategy that delivers better education outcomes, with an explicit focus on reform of the public education system.

It will be jointly headed by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Sector Begum Shehnaz Wazir Ali and Michael Barber. The statement mentioned that though the members and board members of the body are valued and reputed in the field of social development, the question is still worth asking as to what criterion was employed to select them.

"The emphasis on public-private partnership in the domain of education, laid at the inaugural meeting, needs clarification, as we might construe it yet another bid to strengthen the privatisation of education sector in Pakistan at the expense of existing under resourced public educational institutions."

The PCE also expressed concern that the enactment of another body on top of existing ones at various tiers, with review and monitoring mandate, might lead to overlapping and role conflict. It demanded PCE that the proceedings of all the following meetings of the task force to be made public so that civil society has access to vital information regarding the functioning of the task force. It called for increased civil society participation in the PETF through a genuinely democratic process in order to make its mandate and functioning truly representative of the will and the aspirations of the people of Pakistan.

Your Comments
"I have the following questions to PETF. If they answer these questions effectively they will know the solutions. 1. Out of 13 million children of age 5-9, why there are no schools for 6.4 million children? Is basic education not their human right and requirement of the constitution of Pakistan? 2. 95 % of students who do not enter higher education and 100 % of those out of school are a paracite on society. Why cant they be offered to learn one vocational skill before they reach the age of 15, i.e. while in secondary education or out side the school? In China all the school children work after school hours and consequently learn a vocation. I hear that vocational skills are taught in schools in China, Japan and Cuba. Vocation schools in Pakistan enrole only 0.314 million students while the need is for 12.67 million every year i.e. 40 times more. 3. Why the succesive governments of Pakistan have not followed the principle of equlaity and justice in providing quality basic eduction to all despite being an Islamic State? 4. Why the allocation of funds to education has dropped to less than 2 % of GDP and why every year only 20 % of allocated funds are used/misused? 5. Is not teaching a professional skill? And if it is so than what proportion of teachers in Pakistan are trained in this skill according to modern trends in Pedagogy? Please refer to my book Thank you. Dr.Sirajuddin Ahmed Retired Principal Khyber Meddical College, Peshawar"
Name: Dr.Sirajuddin Ahmed
City, Country: Peshawar Pakistan

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KU seats allocated to rural Sindh, Balochistan
Karachi: Admission forms for seats allocated to rural Sindh and Balochistan in University of Karachi can be obtained from the varsity's campus up until December 22, announced Director, Admission Committee, University of Karachi, Prof. Dr Saleem Shahzad.

He added that the Karachi University has also extended the fee submission date for admission in BS Honours (First Year) and BS (Third Year) by this date as well.

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GNSTA alleged corruption
Karachi: The Government and Nationalised School Teachers' Association (GNSTA) has demanded that Senior Education Minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq and Executive District Officer (EDO) Education Muhammad Ibrahim Kumber suspend Assistant District Officer (ADO) Education Landhi Town, Chaman Lal, who has allegedly been involved in forgery. They also asked the authorities concerned to recover the lost amount from him.

GNSTA representatives alleged that Lal had collected conveyance allowances for June and July from the accountant general of Sindh (AG Sindh) through two cheques; however, not a single penny was distributed among the principals of schools in Landhi Town.

As many as 58 principals out of a total of 64 were deprived of the allowance, they said. GNSTA General Secretary Dr Farzand Ali Awan said that each principal was eligible for a conveyance allowance of Rs1,840. Owing to the delay in delivery, they had given Rs400 to Rs500 to Lal's assistant, hoping that this would ensure early payment of their money; none of them, however, have received the allowance yet, he said.

Dr Awan further claimed that Lal warned his assistant and told him not to inform the teachers about the payment from the AG Sindh. Later, the GNSTA conducted an inquiry and found that Lal had withdrawn the amount on October 7, 2009, but did not let anyone knew about this.

The association then approached Lal and asked him why he had not handed over the amount to the principals. The ADO promised to pay off the allowances in a couple of weeks. However, he failed to deliver and gaves new dates to the teachers. "Lal gave some cheques to the teachers, but all of them bounced," Dr Awan alleged, adding that later, the ADO started threatening teachers and the association, and did not give any money to the principals.

Lal was also involved in embezzling funds which were meant for local teachers, and cheated teachers at various occasions, the GNSTA alleged. 'We do not know if Lal has any 'backing', but one thing is for sure: he is still on the job,' GNSTA officials said.

The association demanded that the senior education minister and the EDO education immediately order an enquiry against Chaman Lal.

The office of the EDO education said that they had received a written complaint against Chaman Lal, and that, EDO Kumber will look into the matter. The news

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Cultural library set up
Islamabad: The National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) has set up a unique library, with a collection of over 10,000 books and journals.

"This is the only public library in the world addressing Pakistan's traditional culture and serves national and international students, scholars and researchers who intend to carryout research on any aspect of Pakistani culture and folklore," said Lok Virsa Executive Director Khalid Javaid.

The official said numerous manuscripts, original reports, field surveys and research monographs on Pakistani culture were accessible to anyone.

The important topics on which research was encouraged at Lok Virsa included folk literature, cultural history, art and craft, folk songs, folk romances, folk tales, children games, legends, rhymes, animal folks and legends attached to mountains, rivers, ruined castles, traditional festivals, superstitions and beliefs, customs and rituals, celebrations at birth, weddings and funerals, good and bad omens, ethno-technology, ethnomusicology, and history and oral traditions.

Mr Javaid said Lok Virsa had published over 200 books on various facets of Pakistani folklore and cultural heritage covering all regions of the country.

"Many of these books are national award winners and some of them are prescribed at postgraduate level in universities," he said. "It will be fair to call Lok Virsa the cultural storehouse of literature pertaining to Pakistani traditions.

Original research works in regional languages with Urdu recordings of the regional text are also published."

Lok Virsa had also established a number of public facilities, including a sound archive with over 20,000 hours of recorded tapes of authentic cultural materials conducted through village-to-village surveys and documented scientifically as a storehouse of nation's heritage for posterity.

The video archive with over 5,000 hours of video recording depicted cultural traditions, rituals, rites and festivals; and a state-of-the-art media centre as a full-fledged production facility with all required audio-visual equipment.

The latest addition which Lok Virsa made to its cultural facilities was the first state museum of ethnology, popularly known as Heritage Museum at Shakarparian, portraying living cultural traditions of the people of Pakistan.

Elaborating on the subject, Mr Javaid said: "It is a unique museum of its kind, contributing significantly to the beauty and cultural landscape of the federal capital."

The main displays of the museum included hall of antiquity and continuity with special focus on living elements of ancient civilisations such as Moenjodaro, Gandhara and Harrappa; ethnic tribes, thematic exhibitions, artisans-at-work, hall of ballads and romances, hall of Sufis and shrines, hall of musical heritage, hall of textile and embroidery, jewellery and metal work, hall of architecture, wood work, etc.

There are also several link passages in the museum which depict cultural affinities and influences of Pakistan with other Muslim and friendly countries such as Iran, China and the Central Asian States. Dawn

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Painting with a difference
Karachi: With seven solo and over 100 group exhibitions to his credit, 52-year-old Ghalib Baqar happens to be one of the finest water colour artists of Pakistan. His first solo exhibition was held in 1983 at the B.M Gallery and was inaugurated by noted scientist, intellectual and painter, Dr Salimuzaman Siddiqui.

In 1991, he had another solo exhibition at the Indus Art Gallery managed by Pakistan's leading artist Ali Imam. Baqar has also over 20 years of teaching experience at the Balochistan Art Council, Karachi Grammar School and the Visual Studies Department of the University of Karachi. He had bagged first prize at Biennial International Competition of SAARC countries in 1988.

Born in Karachi on April 14, 1956, Baqar is the youngest son of eminent Urdu critic and former head of the University of Balochistan Urdu Department, Prof. Mujtaba Husain. He earned his diploma in fine arts in 1975 from the Karachi School of Art and was the institute's youngest diploma holder at the time. His father, Prof. Husain, migrated to Quetta in the early 1970s, when Balochistan University was established with eminent scholar and educationist, Prof. Karrar Hussain as its first vice chancellor.

Baqar also shifted to the provincial capital of Balochistan and joined the Balochistan Art Council as a teacher in 1978. However, he returned to Karachi in 1981. He has a passion to paint and usually paints during the night.

"I was always fascinated by water colour and painted thousands of seascapes and landscapes at Karachi Harbour, Manora, Keamari, Malir, Ziarat, Kalam, Kaghan, Murree, Swat and other places," he said.

He was taught the art of painting by Mansoor Ahmed Rahi and Abdul Hafeez Khan and amongst masters; he was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Salvador Dali and J.M. W. Turner.

"Turner's paintings in particular inspired me a lot, especially his drawing," he said. "Herb Olsen, a great water colour artist also inspired me a lot and I improved a lot after going through his works."

"Among Orientalists, I was inspired by great artists Sadequain and Chugtai, but my paintings have not been influenced by them," he said. During 1991-2001 Baqar taught fine arts at Karachi Grammar School and later joined the Visual Studies Department of the University of Karachi. He also taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts at Karachi Art Council.

"Today there are about 60 art galleries in Karachi and quality of art has also improved but we are not creating great masters like Sadequain and Chugtai. The new breeds of artists don't concentrate on their work. They don't have the flame," he lamented.

Baqar said that people in Karachi today are buying lots of paintings, including paintings by young artists and it's a positive sign. "Chowkundi, run by its curator Zohra Husain has made a significant contribution in promotion of art in Karachi," he said. "Bashir Mirza's BM Gallery and Indus Art Gallery also played a vital role in promotion of art in the city," he said. "No doubt Bashir Mirza and Ali Imam were the pioneers," he said.

He showed satisfaction at the pace of art in the city. "Thousands of students are enrolling themselves in art schools.

In yesteryear there was only Karachi School of Art and Central Institute of Arts and Crafts where art was being taught. Today we have Indus Valley of Art and Architecture and the Visual Studies Department of the University of Karachi where one can acquire education in art and even students from elite classes are taking keen interest in art," he said.

However, he regretted that the era of military dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq was a bad omen for art and culture in the country, including Karachi. "It generated fear, anxiety and violence and promoted drug and jihadi culture and terrorism, previously unknown in the city. Art was also affected by regression of that period," he said.

"During the despotic rule of Gen. Zia art was ignored and only calligraphy was promoted," he said. "And we as citizens are still suffering from the follies of promoting jihadi culture by the rulers," he said. "We don't know till what time we will continue to suffer," he said.

"As far as my contribution to water colour is concerned, I can say with a sense of pride that I introduced subjects such as rain, mist, fog and night in my paintings in Pakistan," he said. "I have also painted verses of great Urdu poets such as Mir, Ghalib, Yagana, Anis, Dabeer and Josh," he said. The news

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