The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the schools secretary to submit complete break-up of schools in all categories all over the province with the number of students enrolled and furniture, if provided to them, in last 10 years.
The direction came on a lawsuit pertaining to procurement of school furniture including dual desks, tables and chairs to government schools in Karachi and Mirpurkhas divisions. The plaintiff had challenged the contract awarded to different contractors by the education department after disqualifying him from the bidding process.
The plaintiff submitted that he had offered his bid in accordance with the Sindh Public Procurement Rules 2010 wherein he was technically qualified for the Mirpurkhas region. He submitted that no technical evaluation was made in respect of the Karachi division, but the defendant authority declared that the plaintiff was not registered under the sales tax and not registered in the relevant field that was manufacturer and supplier.
The plaintiff submitted that the redressal committee had also directed to re-scrutinise all the technical bids from all suppliers, including the plaintiff, and furnish revised evaluation report in order to maintain transparency and smooth process of procurement of furniture and fixture. The plaintiff stated that findings of the committee was not adhered to and the defendants chose to award contracts to other defendants and there was a likelihood that sums would be released in their favour causing serious prejudice to the plaintiff.
A single bench of the SHC headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar observed that the issue pertained to the basic fundamental rights of the students who were unable to afford private schools and had no option but to get education from public sector schools.
The defendant contractor’s counsel submitted that they had partially provided furniture to different schools. The high court directed private contractors and defendants to submit complete details of handing over of the furniture/fixture along with receiving statements of the head of schools or directors. The bench directed the secretary to submit complete break-up of schools in all categories all over the province and furniture, if any, provided to them in last 10 years.
The SHC also directed the director of elementary, secondary and higher secondary education Karachi and Mirpurkhas region to appear in person in view of claim of the contractors that they had provided furniture partially to various schools of subject divisions.
The bench directed the education secretary to submit complete break-up of all schools of Sindh including number of students enrolled, wherein the furniture, students desks were not available and the steps taken by them to ensure provision of furniture to all those schools.
The high court also directed the education secretary to apprise the court about the status of school furniture of all schools and the atmosphere in which these students were getting education with or without furniture.
It is pertinent to mention that the provincial education and literacy department had earlier informed the high court that the department could not arrange 1.6 million desks that were currently required for the government schools.
The SHC had expressed resentment over the lack of furniture school desks in the government schools and observed that if such a situation was believed that a desk was meant for two, it entailed that 1.6 million students were forced to study while sitting on the ground, which hurt the children’s dignity, even though it is a matter of record that there are many stakeholders in education that provided funds, including donors agencies.