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Education dept comes under fire on ghost centres issue

ISLAMABAD, Sept 13: Speakers at a seminar here on Wednesday criticised the Punjab literacy department for existence of thousands of ghost literacy centres in the province.

The seminar was organised by the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) in collaboration with Unesco and the ministry of education.

One of the participants from Bahawalpur, Dr Aslam Adeeb said he had conducted a survey and found thousands of fake literacy centres. "I have the documentary evidence to prove it," he claimed.

He said teachers were appointed but not given appointment letters and somebody else took their salaries. He said the ground realities were different from the data provided by the Punjab literacy department, which has failed to bring about any tangible result. "It is not a model which should be replicated in other provinces," he added.

Another participant, also from Bahawalpur, said there was not a single functional literacy centre in Bahawalpur.

The special secretary finance, Punjab, while responding to the criticism suggested a third party evaluation of the literacy programme. He said targets of literacy cannot be achieved without linking literacy with the economic factor.

He said the poorest of the poor would not be ready to send their children to schools unless their economic needs were met. He said punitive action cannot force enrolment of children.

Minister of State for Education Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli on the occasion asked provinces to ensure that sufficient monetary resources were utilised for improvement of education sector.

She said there was no paucity of funds and the federal government was ready to provide financial assistance to the provinces for improvement of education sector. She, however, regretted that funds allocated for education were never completely utilised and the provinces always surrendered them on one pretext or the other.

Chairperson of the Senate standing committee on education, science and technology Razina Alam Khan said she had visited NCHD literacy centres personally and found them functioning in top order.

Dr Mohammad Ajmal, chief operating officer NCHD, said the government had made considerable progress through rapid reforms in the education sector. He, however, said there was still a need to increase the literacy rate through public-private partnership in promoting quality and coverage of education.

Iqbalur Rehman, national literacy programme coordinator, said the literacy programme was operational in 117 districts and so far 71,281 adult literacy centres had been established in which 1,435,745 persons had become literate. He said the number of operational literacy centres was 50,000.

About future plans, he said 250,000 additional literacy centres would be established till 2010.

Dr Saleem, a representative of the ministry of education, underlined the need for implementing existing laws to promote literacy for national prosperity.

He said the literacy amendment act 1987, which provided that a passport other than for Haj, or a licence should be issued only to a literate person, needed to be enforced with sincerity. Dawn
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