Billions sunk in 8,000 ghost schools: official
Islamabad, July 18: A federal government education project worth over Rs8 billion, the Basic Education Community Schools (BECS), is stinking badly and feeding more than 8,000 ghost schools in the country, including the federal capital, a member of the Planning Commission and Board of Directors of the National Education Foundation (NEF) has revealed.
Planning Commission Member Mohayyuddin Marri said that the funding of the BECS project had been stopped in the current fiscal year as the Planning Commission wanted its revision to check the irregularities and corruption.
When approached, NEF MD Nasir Hayat, who has been recently given this assignment, said his organisation had approached the Finance Ministry for the release of funds for recurring expenditure of the project. He said he did not know that the funding for the project had been stopped. Nasir Hayat, however, did not agree with the figure of ghost schools as quoted by Mohayyuddin Marri, who is also a member of the NEF BoD.Hayat said the figure of ghost schools was only around 800. He said he himself was not satisfied the way the project was being run in the past and for the same reasons, he recently issued a show cause notice to all the four provincial directors for their utter failure to effectively supervise the project.
Hayat said a total of 13,094 schools all over Pakistan were run under this project, whose two years extension was being sought by the NEF. According to Mohayyuddin Marri, more than half of these schools are ghost schools and the huge funds allocated for them go into the pockets of a few. Marri, who hails from Balochistan, said on papers there are 750 schools in Balochistan but on the ground one would hardly find 250.
"Forget about Balochistan, there are ghost schools even in the federal capital," he asserted. He lamented there was no administrative check on community schools as the NEF was dependent on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to ascertain whether the schools really existed and doing the envisaged job.
He alleged most of these NGOs were part of the problem as they too ate up the public money that was going down the drain. He said in the name of education, irregular appointments had been made and even persons appointed on contract against this particular project were promoted. Even otherwise, he said, the running of these schools was not in line with what was envisaged in the PC-I.
According to Marri, even the books purchased from the project money had not been provided to students in many cases. He said despite being a member of the NEF BoD, he was totally dissatisfied with this project and its outcome, and for the same reasons had got the projects funding stopped till the revision of the project and its PC-I.
Nasir Hayat, who joined the NEF only two months ago, claimed things had improved during his tenure as he had taken action against all the provincial directors besides holding an inquiry to find out the ghost schools.
Hayat said he would not take any responsibility for anything that was done to the project before his arrival but was ready to be held accountable for what had been done during the last two months and under his tenure. He said he was seeking the dismissal of all the provincial directors, including one from the Punjab who got promotion to BS 19 from BS 16.
Under the BECS, community schools are set up by the community in their houses. The BECS provides Rs3,000, Rs4,000 and Rs4,500 per month to teachers who are matriculate, intermediate and graduate respectively with Rs1,000 additional given per month to each of these schools for electricity charges.
Each of these community schools was supposed to have a minimum of 30 students and were designed to impart education from class I to V. In many schools, which were running for the last four-five years, they do have students in class I, II and III but not in IV and V, which means these schools were run on only official files.
According to Nasir Hayat, NGOs do the supervision of these schools, but added that he was seeking restructuring of the project to ensure that the desired results were achieved. He said a number of BECS officials were removed on corruption charges.
The NEF MD said Rs5.4 billion had already been spent on this project, which required a little over Rs2 billion more for the next two years for which the NEF had already sent the revised PC-I of the project. The newsYour Comments
KU announces schedule of BEd supplementary exams
Karachi: University of Karachi (KU) has announced the schedule of BEd Supplementary Examinations (Morning/Evening), which will commence from July 19 to August 13 in the new classrooms near the Department of International Relations, said a statement issued here on Tuesday. All the papers will be conducted from 02:00pm till 05:00pm.
Meanwhile, according to another announcement the KU in collaboration with the Department of Youth Affairs, Government of Sindh, is organising a Career Counseling Session on July 19 in the ICCBS Auditorium - HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry. Justice (r) Rana Bhagwandas, Chairman Federal Public Service Commission, will deliver the keynote address. Daily times
MQM condemns teachers' sacking
Karachi: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Minister of State Dr Nadeem Ehsan and Deputy Parliamentary leader of the MQM in the National Assembly Haider Abbas Rizvi have strongly condemned the termination of 1,613 teachers by the District Coordination Officer (DCO) in Dera Ismail Khan on political grounds. They termed the act of termination by one stroke of the pen as utter violation of the rules and regulations and anti-education step of the DCO.
They said that the service tribunal had decided the case in favour of the teachers, but the act of disobeying the decision on political pressure had darkened the future of the teachers and their families.
They said that the prevailing double standards of the educational system were already creating hurdles in the spread of education in the country. They said that the forced termination of the teachers, who were imparting knowledge and awareness in the students belonging to the poor and the middle class, would in no way prove to be fruitful for the country.
They expressed their solidarity with the teachers and said that the MQM leadership would continue to raise its voice for their rights. The news
Higher education in dire straits
Islamabad: Non-release of funds amounting to Rs9 billion from the budget of 2011-12 and Rs10 billion deduction from budget of 2012-13 (overall Rs19 billion) for Higher Education Commission (HEC) will seriously impact the higher education sector in the country.
Besides, 20 per cent increase in salaries and pensions for 2012-13 could lead universities towards bankruptcy. Universities have been borrowing to pay salaries with no hope in sight.
According to sources, the estimated deficit of Rs19 billion, in the current fiscal year, will not allow new enrollment, faculty hiring and other initiatives.
Returning scholars (from abroad) who expect higher salaries which are used as an incentive for attracting international academics may consider other opportunities rather than returning home and it will be a loss for the entire country, sources said.
A faculty member of the university requesting anonymity said: "Just eight per cent of the population in the age group of 17 – 23 years has access to higher education.
"The Education Policy 2009 says it will rise to 10 per cent by 2015 and 15 per cent by 2020. Reduced funding will not help in achieving this target which is also a broader indicator for the World Bank loan to the federal government in the form of budgetary support."
"Over 10,000 scholars studying in the country and abroad are in dire straits. Funding in the form of stipend and tuition fees have not been paid to foreign and local scholars for the last six months," he said.
"The human resource development component itself is Rs9 billion which covers tuition and stipends of these scholars who are studying in reputed universities of academically advanced countries across the world," he added.
Another officer of HEC on condition of anonymity said lack of research facilities particularly lab facilities was the key barrier for students, researchers and faculties at higher education institutions (HEIs).
The ongoing academic programmes of some faculties at universities are at stake as accreditations requirements for enhancement of laboratories, infrastructure, faculty etc. are not being fulfilled.
"More than 4,000 approved PhD scholarships (both HEC and HEIs) are delayed due to financial constraints. Eight newly established universities have not been awarded even a single development project so far and majority of these universities are located in remote areas of Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab," he said. "The newly established sub campuses in the deprived areas require immediate support for academic activities to take off and no development funding has been made to the majority of these sub campuses so far," he said.
Vice Chancellor of the University of Balochistan Prof Dr Rasool Bakhsh Raisani, said big universities have resources but Balochistan University cannot survive without funding.
"We have requested HEC to give us funds on priority basis and also appealed to government of Balochistan to help us. Even increase in fees will not resolve our issue, so I can not say anything about the future strategy," he said.
Dr Nizamuddin, chairman development committee on social sciences and vice-chancellor, University of Gujrat, said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf initially assured that funds would be given for higher education but later bureaucracy became a hurdle.
"Government of Punjab helped us in development projects but refused to give funds to hire new faculty due to which classrooms are useless," he said. Adviser to HEC Dr Riaz Qureshi said the commission was in touch with the relevant departments and time and again informed them about the issues.
"We have been hoping positively but let's see what happens," he said.
PhD degree awarded
Peshawar: The University of Peshawar has awarded a PhD degree to Salman Bangash, who is serving as lecturer in the department of history.
Defence of his thesis was held on June 21, 2012. External supervisor was Prof Iqbal Chawla, department of history, University of the Punjab, while internal examiner was Prof Sarfraz Khan, director of the Area Study Centre (Russia, China & Central Asia), University of Peshawar.
Dr Salman Bangash was enrolled as a PhD scholar in 2004-05. He has successfully completed his thesis on "Tribal Belt on the Anglo-Afghan Border: Its Genesis and Purpose during the British Rule in India". Late scholar Dr Mohammad Anwar Khan, who died in February 2012, was his supervisor. Dr Bangash has appealed to the HEC to meet his expenditures to be incurred on travel to the United Kingdom to get access to research material. Dawn