Pakistan education behind all UN targets

Bane of illiteracy
Sept 15: Along with the flood-affected people, one of the chief victims of the raging waters has been the country's vulnerable education sector. Indeed, even before the floods, the state of our schools had been a constant reminder of how Pakistan is falling behind in meeting the Education For All targets set by the UN. With no adult literacy programme worth the name and primary school enrolment in a shambles, it is not surprising that Pakistan's literacy rate is one of the lowest in Asia. If after all these decades, the government has still not recognised the benefits of an educated population for economic productivity, social cohesion, public health and democracy, it is shocking. That it has not is the only explanation for successive governments' failure to expand and upgrade the education system in the country which Islamabad is obliged to do under the constitution and the numerous international conventions to which it is a signatory.

If enough attention had been paid to this sector, the need for adult literacy programmes would have been more or less eliminated. An entire generation of school-goers would have raised the literacy rate considerably as the older generation of illiterates would have been eased out. But this did not happen and Pakistan continues to have people of all ages who have never learnt how to read and write.

What is to be done now? Given the state the country is in today, it would require a massive effort to create the infrastructure, the teaching resources and pedagogic aids as well as mobilisation to put a system in place. While finances are essential for the purpose of upgrading and expansion, money is not the only factor that could make a difference. It is equally important to monitor the system which was derailed mainly because of corruption. Dishonest people swindled money that should have gone into the education of children. The need for adult literacy classes will also have to be addressed. All this calls for a collective effort. A positive impact might be made if industries and the services sector that employ a large number of illiterate people were to accept their social responsibility and devise ways and means to provide opportunities for literacy acquisition to their employees. Dawn

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Varsity campus closure draws criticism
Peshawar: Decision of the Campus Coordination Committee (CCC) to close the institutions on the University of Peshawar campus for another five days has triggered strong criticism from teachers and students.

Terming the decision by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa universities' administration on the directives of the chancellor as discriminatory, the teachers and students said it had brought the seats of higher education on the verge of collapse.

The universities and other institutions on the campus were supposed to reopen today (Wednesday), but an emergency meeting of the CCC held on September 13 decided to keep it closed for another five days till September 20.

According to the spokesman for the University of Peshawar, the decision was taken on the directives of Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani, who is also chancellor of the public sector universities, in view of the inconvenience of the students hailing from the remote and flood-affected areas. He said the gates of the campus were, however, open and the boarders were allowed to stay in the hostels. Office work would also resume today (Thursday) but classes have been delayed, he said.

Commenting on the decision, provincial president of the Federation of All Pakistan Academic Staff Association Prof Dr Mohammad Fida believed that his association's move to launch a protest drive demanding 50 percent increase in salary of the university employees from September 15 might have prompted the authorities to delay reopening of the higher seats of learning. "They have cited security clearance for reopening of the varsities, which holds no ground," he said.

He said the FAPUASA meeting would be held as per schedule on September 18 to devise strategy for strengthening their struggle for getting their genuine rights. "We had earlier decided to wear black bands on our arms and boycott classes and office work for an hour. But now we would increase our protest. We will continue our struggle till issuance of the orders to raise our salary," he declared.

Another professor of the University of Peshawar told this correspondent that the decision was taken all of a sudden. "The students and teachers were not informed in advance. Most of the students came to the university only to find it closed," he said.

The academician ridiculed the university administration's plea that the high seat of learning was being closed for another few days due to security threats, questioning whether such threats would vanish on September 19. "Has the chancellor or the university administration any guarantee to purge the province of suicide bombers by 20th?" he asked.

He flayed what he called the discriminatory policies of the chancellor, arguing that privileges announced by the federal government were being given to the university employees in other provinces but not in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which had dismayed the teaching and non-teaching staff of the public sector universities.

"First the decision of giving fuel allowance to university teachers was withdrawn by the governor. Now he issued directives to stop the 50 percent increase in salaries of university employees," he argued.

Vice-chancellor of the University of Peshawar Prof Dr Azmat Hayat, who is the chairman of campus coordination committee, as usual was not available for his comments. It is almost impossible for media to seek comments from him. A few days back when this correspondent managed to reach him by phone for comments on the kidnapping of vice-chancellor Islamia College University, Ajmal Khan, he declined to say anything on the issue.

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Hazara varsity demands recovery of IUC VC
Mansehra: The teaching and non-teaching staff and students of the Hazara University have expressed grave concern and shock over the kidnapping of the Vice-Chancellor of Islamia College University Professor Ajmal Khan and demanded the government to ensure his early and safe recovery.

The concern was conveyed by Hazara University Vice-Chancellor Dr Syed Sakhawat Shah, who called the Islamia College University Registrar Professor Dr Saeed Anwer and showed deep anguish over the kidnapping of the ICU vice-chancellor.

The Hazara University vice-chancellor said the varsity teachers were playing an important role in imparting high education to the people but it was regrettable that they themselves had become vulnerable and insecure.

Prof Dr Syed Sakhat Shah said the faculty members of the Hazara University, other employees and students of the varsity stood by the family members of Prof Ajmal Khan and their counterparts in the Islamia College University in this difficult time. He asked the government to take immediate steps for early and safe recovery of the kidnapped vice-chancellor and end the unrest that had gripped the teaching community after the kidnapping.

The Hazara University Registrar Prof Dr Syed Muqarrab Shah also condemned the kidnapping of Professor Ajmal Khan and asked the government to recover the official. He also sought proper official security for vice-chancellors and other senior faculty members of the universities. The news

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Student recovered, kidnapper arrested
Peshawar: Police claimed to have recovered a nine-year-old student of a private school and arrested a kidnapper here on Tuesday.

A police spokesman said that Hamza, a resident of New Garhi Bakhshi Pul, had been abducted by unidentified kidnappers while on his way home from school on Sept 2.

His friends had informed his parents that three armed men riding a black colour Corolla motorcar bundled him into the vehicle in the limits of Khazana police station, he said.

The kidnappers had demanded Rs5 million as ransom for his release, but his relatives prolonged the negotiations with the captors and informed police.

He said that police got a clue and arrested Raj Mohammad, a resident of Ram Kushan area.

The arrested man disclosed the names of his accomplices -- Wajid and Hussain Ali -- but they could not be arrested so far. The student was recovered from a house in Khazana, he added.

Meanwhile, police have also resolved the mystery of a blind murder case occurred in the limits of Mathra police station in August.

Police spokesman said that unidentified persons had kidnapped a taxi driver Asad Khan, a resident Shabqadar, along with his vehicle. They had dumped his body near Sherabad village on Aug 19 after killing him, he said.

He said that the taxicab was later found while driven by a schoolteacher Faqir Mohammad, who was arrested. The teacher revealed that he had purchased the motorcar at a cost of Rs100,000 from Gul Karim, an automobile mechanic Tariq and a bank officer Imtiaz.

Police arrested all of them and they confessed that they had killed the driver and sold his motorcar.

The official said that the gang was under interrogation and seemed to be involved in many other heinous crimes. Dawn

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