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May 22, 2015

To salvage Sindh’s education system,parties pledge to up their game


May 22, 2015

With 7.3 million children in Sindh not going to schools and 70 percent of those who are eventually dropping out because there aren’t enough middle and primary schools, the need for targeted political involvement to resolve the crisis in education has never been greater.
Though all the political parties would agree to de-politicise the education department, the fact of the matter is that millions of out-of-school children will not have a future without their active involvement, and consensus, in the matter.
The degree of importance political parties in Sindh attach to the subject of education became clear at an all parties conference convened by an Islamabad-based think tank in Karachi to generate a consensus on the problems, and inadvertently, solutions to improve the situation.
The Sindh All Parties Conference on the role of political parties in improving access and quality of education was organised on Thursday by Institute of Social and Policy Sciences in collaboration with Alif Ailaan.
The Pakistan People’s Party, which leads the provincial government, and the party which specialises in criticism, Pakistan Tehreeke-e-Insaf, were both conspicuous by their absence.
Though the PPP representatives, including Sindh Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Khair-un-Nisa Mughal and Khursheed Ahmed Junejo, apologised in advance for not being able to attend the conference on account of important meetings at the CM House and Bilawal House, the leaders from the latter party including Khurram Sherzaman, Dr Arif Alvi and Samar Ali Khan did not even extend that courtesy and turned their mobile phones off.
Meanwhile, the participants from Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Sindh United Party, Sindh National Party, Qaumi Awami Tehreek, Areesar and Bashir Qureshi groups of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz and the Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party signed a 14-point

declaration to try and do their bit for a gradual ascent toward improvement in schooling conditions of the province.
All of them agreed that political appointments of teachers and officials should stop along with interference in their postings and transfers.
Lawmakers from the MQM, Irum Azeem Farooque and Rana Ansar, also promised to present the declaration on the floor of the Sindh Assembly and try to push to government to devise the rules of business for legislation pertaining to free and fair education and allocate more funds for education development.
Those from the PML-F, Nusrat Sehar Abbasi and Mehtab Akbar Rashidi, made a similar commitment.
The provincial president of PML-Q, Haleem Adil Shaikh, said his party seconded the demands in the declaration signed and promised to raise them in the Senate and National Assembly.
He could not refrain from pointing out that the absence of government representatives reflected the importance they attached to education.
“If the government doesn’t care about the 7.3 million out-of-school children then it should at least not waste the Rs145 billion being spent on the sector and utilise the amount effectively,” he said, “It seems that the more funds the government allocates for education, the worse the situation gets.”
Mehtab Akbar Rashidi of the PML-F made a very skewed observation that the parties not part of the government could play a greater role, that of pressure groups and vigilant observers, to keep the authorities on their toes.
Asadullah Bhutto of the JI demanded from the government to call a conference on education with all stakeholders.
Ashraf Nonari of the Sindh National Party said there was a dire need to overcome the lack of good governance, management and self-responsibility among all political stakeholders. He lamented that MPAs themselves did not raise issues, questions and demands with the authorities.
He, along with Mehtab Akbar Rashidi, also condemned the politicisation of teachers’ unions and said the profession should be devoid of any political activity.
Jalal Mehmood Shah of the Sindh United Party said political will was missing to effectively utilize even the available resources. He called for separating the teaching and administrative cadres, and stringent monitoring of teachers besides bringing transparency in the examination system.
Rajab Ali Memon, senior vice president of the Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party called for regulation of private schooling systems by the government.
On the other hand, Senator Nihal Hashmi from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said even though education was devolved subject, his government could not relieve themselves of the responsibility of educating millions of children in the country.
Lawmakers from the PML-N present on the occasion included Haji Shafi Jamote and Sorath Thebo.

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