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Charter of Education signed: Election candidates discuss plans to improve education in Swat

MINGORA: The election candidates of eight political parties took part in a lively discussion here on Tuesday as they talked about their plans and priorities in the education sector. They also discussed the failing state of education in Swat district, which is placed 16th among the 25 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is at number 86 out of the 141 districts in Pakistan. The event, which was organised by the Udhyaana Education Campaign, was aimed at promoting education and finding solutions to ensure quality education in government schools.

A large number of teachers, parents, political workers, students and members of the civil society attended the event.

Irshad Ali of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Fazal Hakim Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Muhammad Amin of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Malik Riaz Khan of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), Wajid Ali Khan of Awami National Party (ANP), Shehryar Amirzeb of Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Fazal Rahman Nono of Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and Dr Iqbal Khan of the newly launched Swat Awami Party (SAP) attended the debate.

They said that Swat had been at the receiving end as it suffered from extremism and violence from 2005 to 2009.

The participants of the debate added that militancy had diminished education opportunities for girls in Swat. They said though the girls and boys were now going to school, they were facing certain challenges. The challenges pertained to poor learning outcomes as only 40.2 percent of grade five students are able to read a story in Urdu/Pashto with only 44 percent of grade five students being able to solve a two digit division sum. It was pointed out that coupled with a shortage of subject specialist teachers in boys and girls schools, quality education has taken a massive hit in Swat's schools in the past many years.

Another challenge pertained to lack of post-primary schools for children to continue education after grade five. According to the report of Swat's District EducationOffice, about 81 percent of all the schools in the district are primary schools.

Only 2.3 percent (38 schools) in the district are higher secondary, which are at a long distance from the students' homes, leading to a steady decrease in enrolment, especially for girls. It was noted that the gender disparity for girls has further aggravated in Swat due to the less number of girls schools.

Senior journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai moderated the programme. At the end, all contesting candidates signed a "Charter of Education" for the constitutional provision of quality education to children in Swat and pledged to work for these goals after getting elected.

The charter, which was backed by a host of organisations, parents and community members in Swat, called for the upgradation of schools, increase in the number of schools for girls and provision of transport facilities for students. It also highlighted the need for of subject specialists and qualified staff, infrastructure and science laboratories in educational institutes.

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