PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Wednesday sought a detailed report from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government about the enrollment of out-of-school children and ghost schools.
A division bench comprising Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Muhammad Ghazanfar directed Ziaullah Bangash, an adviser to the chief minister on Education, to submit the report at next hearing.
On the court’s direction, the advisor appeared before the court on the issue. The court had summoned him in a writ petition filed by a non-governmental organisation, Society for Access to Quality Education.
It sought the court’s directives for the provincial government to enroll out-of-school children in line with Article 25-A of the Constitution.
To the court’s query about the ghost schools and students, the advisor said education was the top priority on the provincial government’s agenda. He said recently the government had run a special drive for enrollment of the out-of-school children and that remained fruitful.
About the ghost schools and children, he said the government had appointed a managing director for this special task, which did not come up to the government’s expectations so he was suspended.
Responding to another question, the advisor said the managing director, Zulfiqar Ahmad, was getting Rs0.5 million salary and was a graduate.
Taking strong exception to the matter, Justice Qaiser Rashid observed that whether the government had not a competent and expert on the issue to appoint him to the important post.
Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan observed that it was the government’s incompetence to appoint incompetent officer on such post against the rules.
“On the one hand the government is making tall claims and on the other incompetent officers are being appointed to important positions,” he remarked.
Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan stated that the government’s drive for enrollment of out-of-school children should not be limited to a mere announcement. He said the government should ensure education for all children.
The Education Department, however, has own reasons to defend its stance about the ghost schools and children.
The department says since Elementary Education Foundation was an independent and autonomous body managed by a board of governors and headed by the managing director, he should have taken action to curb the corrupt practices and brought it before the board.
The working paper prepared by the (suspended) MD, for the board of governors’ meeting on the basis of the reports he had received from different districts shows that only 600 of the total 1500 schools were physically available and only 51,708 students were actually found present against the projected number of 93,399, which meant that 41,681 of them were fake.
As per the project, the out-of-school children should be enrolled in low-paid private schools in the areas where government schools are not available.
The provincial Education Department has now held the suspended MD over alleged corruption, ghost schools and fake enrollments in the multi-million Iqra Farogh-e-Taleem Voucher Scheme initiated by the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government in the province.
The enrollment of alarming number of ghost out-of-school children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the last PTI government has turned out to be a huge scandal as the official report for the year 2018-19 shows that this corruption in the name of education has spread to 19 of the total 25 districts where the scheme was launched.