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July 23, 2018

Election candidates pledge to prioritise education if elected


July 23, 2018

Concurring that education has been one of the most neglected sector in terms of public spending and resource allocation, electoral candidates from various parties have pledged to accord top priority to the sector if elected to the assemblies. The contenders made the promise at a seminar organised by education non-profit Alif Ailaan on Saturday evening.

Through a video presentation on the state of education in the country, the organisers showed that there were 2,855 government-run schools in Karachi. Of these, 330 were without drinking water, 935 were without electricity and 735 without boundary walls. It was pointed out that the Army Public School in Peshawar, which was the target of a deadly terrorist attack in December 2014, also did not have a boundary wall.

The pledges

In her remarks, Fauzia Kasuri, a Pak Sarzameen Party candidate for NA-247, emphasised the importance of raising awareness and said she would endeavour to see that the budgetary allocation for education is raised to 4 per cent from the current 2.6 per cent, if she is elected to the legislature.

The PSP leader also spoke about the importance of formal education, but added that in cases where getting this was not possible, there should be facilities for vocational training for citizens. She pledged to work towards ensuring that provisions are made for proper nutrition of children in schools and teacher trainings if she is elected.

Engineer Abid Askari, an MQM candidate for the National Assembly from District South, said that the issue that had to be settled first and foremost was the discrepancy in the population figures of Karachi – whether it was 20 million or 16 million. According to him, all the steps that can be taken to achieve educational efficiency depend on having the correct population figures.

He pledged that if elected, his five-year tenure would be devoted to the uplift of education. “How can we dream of proper education for our children when those who are not fit to join any profession enter teaching and teach our children,” he questioned. Askari added he would work on improving the quality of teachers by including teacher trainings.

Ali Zaidi of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf said 98 per cent of the schools in Sindh had no science laboratories, while structures of another 6,500 had been declared dangerous and some 5,000 are without roofs.

Highlighting his party’s achievements in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Zaidi said playgrounds had been added to 8,000 schools, 40,000 trained teachers had been inducted, electricity had been provided to 11,000 schools, and 1,290 girls schools had been established during the PTI’s tenure in the province.

However, these claims were later hotly-contested by the other discussants and even by some of the questioners from the floor but fortunately for Zaidi, he had left when the criticism began.

Asia Ishaq, a PSP candidate, said that if elected, she would strive to ensure that children were provided a subsidised and nutritious diet at school. She said that 43 per cent of children in Sindh were stunted because their mothers did not get the proper diet to develop a healthy embryo during pregnancy. She added she would also endeavour to ensure adequate diet to the children’s mothers.

In Sindh, she said, seven million children were out of school and thus their creative energies were frittered away into pursuits like terrorism. She added ghost teachers were allotted polling duty whereby they raked in pots of money.

Mairajul Huda Siddiqui of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal lamented that 200,000 candidates appeared for the intermediate examination in 2017 of which only 50,000 passed the exam, and that there was no provision for the rest to continue their education any further.

He said the Karachi University was founded in 1954 when the city’s population was just around a million, but today, 64 years on, while the population had swelled to about 20 million, there was just one university in the public sector. “Education should not be commercialised”, he said, and advocated teaching in the national language.

Syed Qutb Ahmed of the Jamaat-e-Islami, also an electoral candidate, spoke out against a class-based education system. The JI, he said, was managing 2 million schools and JI female workers were going to low-income, underprivileged localities, teaching and training teachers.

He blamed the MQM and the PPP for ruining the state of education and added that the sector would remain a mess as long as governmental funds did not filter down to where they were meant for.

Another MQM candidate, Ali Raza Abidi, lamented that the 18th amendment had bred a lack of uniformity in the curricula at the provincial level and that his priority would be to have this rectified.

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