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August 9, 2019

FDE rudderless as two men at helm are away


August 9, 2019

Islamabad : With both the top boss and his all-powerful right-hand man going on leave, the regulator for Islamabad’s government schools and colleges already plagued by ad-hocism has fallen into disarray.

The Federal Directorate of Education's acting director-general, Syed Umair Javed, a joint secretary at the education ministry, has set off for Hajj, while the director (human resource management), Saqib Shahab, has taken a four-month-long leave of absence from work.

Though there’s no official word, rumour has it that the ministry has sent Saqib Shahab on forced leave over the alleged misuse of financial and administrative powers.

The education ministry has opted to leave the top FDE post unoccupied during the foreign trip of the incumbent, Umair Javed, to prevent infighting as claimed by an insider. However, Javed Iqbal Mirza, director (communication and outreach) at the FDE, will manage Saqib Shahab’s tasks in his absence in addition to his own. Ironically, Saqib Shahab is away when the process of admission to the first-year FA, FSc and ICom classes in Islamabad’s FG and model colleges, which he oversees as director, is at its peak needing his supervision.

In an unprecedented move, which provoked strong criticism from decentralisation advocates and created unrest among senior staff members, the FDE recently assigned the offices of director (model colleges), director (FG colleges), director (schools) and director (training) completely and that of director (administration) partly to Saqib Shahab, a junior officer, by merging them into the director (human resource development) post, which didn’t exist earlier.

Educationists resent ad-hocism, the concentration of powers in the hands of a few, and inefficiency at the FDE and say until the tendency of accepting ad-hocism as a replacement for policy moves isn’t done away with, the idea of reforming public sector educational institutions will continue to be a pipe dream.

“The ‘look after charge syndrome’ has caused an administrative mess at the directorate,” an expert said adding that the ministry’s ad hoc approach to the FDE’s affairs has led to the deterioration of education standards in the capital’s government schools and colleges and the mushroom growth of private ones.

The directorate hasn’t got a permanent director-general since December 2016 when the then DG, Dr Shahnaz A Riaz, quit the post on attaining the age of superannuation.

Instead of filling the top vacancy on a permanent basis, first the erstwhile Capital Administration and Development Division and then the federal education ministry, which took the administrative control of the FDE afterward, kept posting its one officer after another or outsiders as the interim FDE chief, causing unrest among the directorate’s own staff members.

The FDE officials claimed that the current acting DG, who was an ‘alien’ to the organisation, lacked experience and expertise to oversee colleges and schools, so he had messed up things at the directorate by concentrating powers in the hands of few blue-eyed junior officers, especially Saqib Shahab.

They said under the recruitment rules, either an FDE director or a degree college’s principal with the minimum of 17 years teaching or administrative experience was eligible for promotion to the DG’s post, but the people at the helm had long been looking right through those rules to serve own interests through ad-hocism.

A college teacher said the FDE had fallen into complete disarray due to ad-hocism and thus, delaying the grant of time-scale promotion to teachers since 2012.

He advocated the posting of the best available college principal as the directorate’s top boss instead of incompetent and unqualified outsiders, saying being in the field, a principal understands the education system and the real issues and challenges it faces, so he or she will formulate policies accordingly to cater to the current and future needs.

A representative of the Federal Government College Teachers Association pressed the education minister and secretary to steer the FDE out of the prolonged administrative crisis by picking out the most apposite person from within the system as the permanent DG in line with recruitment rules.