Sunday March 26, 2023

Over 2,000 public high schools in Punjab without heads

March 29, 2016

LAHORE: Can you imagine a private school without a regular administrative head? The answer is obviously a big ‘No’ since the private sector earns through schools. But when it comes to public schools in Punjab there are hundreds of institutes operating without regular heads and that too for years.

In August last year while using the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, this correspondent had received district-wise information about schools without heads from the School Education Department, according to which, there were 2,611 public high schools across the province where administrative heads were not available. 

However, once the information was handed over the department’s Public Information Officer claimed that the data pertained to previous year claiming meanwhile the situation had improved vis-à-vis availability of heads at these public schools. The certified information is still available with The News according to which, there were no head teachers available at 77 high schools in District Jhang.

The situation in other districts was as follows: Attock 119, Bahawalnagar 68, Bahawalpur 46, Bhakkar 40, Chakwal 155, Chiniot 32, Dera Ghazi Khan 31, Faisalabad 202, Gujranwala 70, Gujrat 137, Hafizabad 34, Jhelum 89, Kasur 38, Khanewal 72, Khushab 58, Lahore 74, Layyah 53, Lodhran 50, Mandi Bahauddin 77, Mianwali 54, Multan 33, Muzaffargarh  22, Nankana Sahib 38, Narowal 56, Okara 69, Pakpattan 41, Rahimyar Khan 69, Rajanpur 15, Rawalpindi 182, Sahiwal 73, Sargodha 121, Sheikhupura 54, Sialkot 104, Toba Tek Singh 100 and Vehari 58.

Earlier this month, a Right to Information (RTI) activist from Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI) from Jhang district, Syed Raza, filed an RTI request with EDO Education of Jhang seeking information about public schools in the district running without head teachers. According to the certified information dated March 14, 2015, a copy made available to The News; there are 91 public sector high schools out of total 170 high schools in Jhang district running without head teachers. This shows almost half of the total high schools (46 percent) in Jhang district are without regular head teachers. 

This clearly shows an increase in the number of schools without heads in district Jhang and obviously situation in other districts might not have improved as governance is a big challenge the public sector schools have been facing in Punjab. 

According to the latest certified information the posts of head at Government Girls High School, Gudarah and Government High School (Boys), Bullo in Jhang have been vacant since 1984 and 1999, respectively! And mind you, Punjab is regarded as a ‘model’ province in terms of provision of education facilities to people. 

Likewise according to Pakistan Education Atlas 2015 released by the federal government’s Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPAM), Punjab has some 6,415 single-teacher schools out of total 38,427 primary schools in the province. One can imagine performance of these single-teacher schools in absence  of any training to teachers in multigrade teaching. 

It is pertinent to mention here that over the years teachers’ associations have been raising concern over non-availability of heads in public schools. The teachers hold the government responsible for ignoring the schools by doing so. “Today the government is handing over primary schools to NGOs owing to ‘poor’ performance and in future high schools will be meeting the same fate,” said Punjab Teachers Union (PTU) general secretary Rana Liaqat. 

From the new academic session starting April this year the Punjab government will be handing over 1,000 public sector primary schools to private sector through Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) under the government’s Public School Support Programme (PSSP). The government has planned to run 5,000 primary schools, what it calls ‘low performing’ schools, under the public private partnership. 

EDO Education Jhang Naseem Ahmad Zahid said wherever a regular incumbent was not available someone from the school was given a charge to act as the head of the school. Explaining as to why the schools didn’t get regular heads, Naseem cited slow promotion of teachers in next grade as the main reason. He claimed that most of the time the teachers did not avail promotion ‘fearing’ dislocation from a particular school hence creating a shortage of eligible candidates for the post of head teachers.

The EDO also said slow recruitment process of direct heads was another issue. “However now the government is very serious and this issue will be addressed on priority basis,” he claimed. 

The PTU general secretary, however, questions: “Can the Schools Department work properly without a regular incumbent for years?” He believes the ‘acting’ heads or those just ‘looking after’ such posts can’t deliver properly which eventually results in poor performance of schools. “It is therefore we (the teachers) fear that in coming years the government will also be handing over high and higher secondary schools to private sector on the pretext of poor performance”, he added.    

When contacted Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan said the schools where regular heads were not available were being looked after by senior teachers who were fully responsible for day to day affairs of the schools.

 He also said Punjab government would recruit 40,000 teachers during this year adding this bulk intake would certainly address the issues such as schools without heads and the single teacher schools.