July 31: With the present government having first stayed embroiled in dealing with the judicial crisis and later with fighting the threats of the Taliban, the mainstream development reforms have largely been ignored. The education sector, which is critical for any brining any meaningful change, is yet to receive any attention. The donor aid commitments to the education sector in Pakistan have increased from as little as $14.51 million in 1999 to $316 million in 2007. However, it is difficult to see any significant change on the ground. Pakistani children whose parents cannot afford schools remain faced with the dual challenge of inaccessibility of schools as well as poor quality of education.
There is a myth that Pakistani parents from conservative families are not keen to send their girls to school. However, in a recent round of field visits to schools in many areas, it was interesting though also saddening to see the high levels of unmet demand for education for girls even in apparently conservative communities. One does not have to go as far as the tribal belt or the Cholistan desert, even in such central places as outskirts of Sheikhupura there were communities where the mothers were desperately requesting the government agencies to extend the existing primary government school to secondary level as otherwise the girls had no option for further education, but there was no positive response. Some of the families had gone to the extent of hiring a teacher to teach the girls who have completed primary in a room in one of the houses. However, as the mothers very convincingly argued, this arrangement did not guarantee the girls a reliable access to middle or secondary level education nor did it provide the girls the grooming that comes by being part of a formal education system.
These communities were actively lobbying the relevant government authorities to secure the upgrading of their schools. They also had the support of a prominent NGO. However, the support had not arrived to date. This was not just one case but even in limited fieldwork one is repeatedly confronted in Pakistan with a desperate demand on the part of the poor and low-middle income communities to educate their children but the state is failing to respond to it. The schools either do not exist or the quality of education being imparted is so poor that the children hardly learn anything meaningful in schools. The government in general, as noted by an official in Punjab, has even adopted a policy to not to establish new schools. It is only considering requests for upgrading a selected number of primary and middle schools each year. For a country, with a two percent population growth rate, this means that the already inadequate number of state schools is expected to cater to this rapidly expanding population. This means that the situation in future will be even dire than now.
The expectations of some major donors and the government of Pakistan that the private sector schools will be the answer to the educational needs of the poor have already proven exaggerated. Many poor and low-middle income communities might be desperate to get education for their children but most of them don't have the financial resources to send their children to private schools, even if they have low fees. The challenge of education provision for all cannot be brushed aside by setting unrealistic hopes from the private sector. The state has to feel its responsibility to provide education for all. And the public should make the state accountable. The large inflows of aid to education sector since September 11 have clearly not trickled down to the Pakistani schools.
At the same time, the government needs to seriously think about improving the quality of its existing schools. The main challenge within the school is good quality of teachers. However, the problem is not purely of technical nature. True, the teacher training institutes need support to train better teachers. However, the main challenge to improving quality of education in state schools is the political appointments and transfers of teachers. This problem is not linked to lack of resources; it has all to do with the political commitment of the government. Why cannot a government, if it is committed to education reforms, put in place mechanisms that ensure merit-based rather than political basis of appointment of teachers and head teachers? A lot can be done to reform the education sector only if the state showed the political will. Resources are for sure not the primary problem.
By Dr Masooda BanoThe writer is a research fellow at the Oxford University. Email: email@example.com (The News)
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HEC research network facility
Chairperson of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Shahnaz Wazir Ali, has said that so far 42 universities have been extended facility of the Pakistan Education Research Network (PERN), adding that it will be launched in 76 universities of the country.
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'Education of 1m children threatened'
Islamabad: The United Nations warned on Thursday that one million children could have their education interrupted in parts of Pakistan, where conflict with the Taliban has damaged or turned schools into civilian shelters.
Around 600,000 out of an estimated 2.2 million people displaced by fighting between troops and the Taliban across the northwest have returned home, a UN spokeswoman told a news conference.
"It is encouraging that some 600,000 people have returned but we are still looking at a very large number who have not," said Stephanie Bunker.
Schools used as a temporary refuge for the displaced are scheduled to reopen for the new academic year on Sept 1, but getting all children back into education "poses a massive challenge," the UN warned.
"According to official sources, 187 schools are destroyed, 318 schools are partially damaged – 313 of them for girls," said a UN statement. Afp
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FJWU students showcase theses and dissertations
Rawalpindi: The students of Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Fine Arts Department (FAD), Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), showcased their works here on Wednesday on FJWU premises.
The works comprised theses and dissertations of the BFA final semester students as a part of their degree requirement.
FJWU Vice Chancellor (VC) Prof Dr Saeeda Asadullah Khan inaugurated the exhibition at the FAD.
Over 80 art pieces related to photography, textile and graphic designing were put on display. All the participating students who exhibited their works will be graduating this year.
In the discipline of photography, the works featured striking depictions of ancient architecture of Taxila, in which the students captured historical sites through their lenses.
The work done in the field of textile designing was very unique and it attracted the viewers' attention. The young artists showed colourful and fascinating designs ranging from beautiful printed dresses to matching footwear. The students also designed cushions, bed sheets, rugs, wall hangings, shawls, dresses, shoes and curtains.
In the field of computer graphics, some students created very appealing and attention-grabbing paintings, mugs and calendars with different moral lessons for children. Daily Times
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Malakand students to get full security: PM
Islamabad: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Thursday that students would be provided security after the reopening of their educational institutions in Malakand division.
"The government has taken strict measures to counter militancy in the country," the prime minister told reporters after attending an award distribution ceremony at the PM Secretariat for students who secured top positions in the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education examinations.
He criticised the so-called ban imposed by militants on girls' education in Malakand and said that Islam had given equal rights of education to men and women. "There is a need to improve the country's image and education can be of great help in this regard."He said the government had decided to root out militancy from the affected areas before establishing a cantonment there. Police force would be strengthened and new recruits would be provided life insurance.
In reply to a question about heavy fee structure of private educational institutions, Mr Gilani said the issue would be addressed in the new education policy.
He said the Ministry of Education had received proposals from the provinces and these would be incorporated into the draft education policy.
He said that private sector was playing a vital role in providing quality education and the government was encouraging it because it could not handle the growing requirement on its own.
Speaking at the function, the prime minister described illiteracy as the root cause of terrorism and extremism and said the government was focussing on improving the quality of education. Dawn
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