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September 3, 2015

Dismal state of education highlighted in PA


September 3, 2015

LAHORE: Lawmakers on Wednesday in Punjab Assembly blasted Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood for ‘criminal negligence’ of the Punjab government over high number of out-of-school children in the province, missing facilities and dangerous schools buildings, and overcharging by private schools and colleges.
The minister faced a number of daunting questions by members on both the opposition and treasury benches, most of them unsatisfied by Mashhood’s remarks painting a rosy picture of the quality of education being provided in government schools and Punjab Education Foundation-run institutions. The minister earlier faced embarrassment as the session was suspended for fifteen minutes due to Secretary of Schools and Education Abdul Jabbar Shaheen being absent during the question hour on his department. Shaheen appeared in the House shortly after instructions by a visibly annoyed Deputy Speaker Gorchani.
The high number of vacant posts of teachers in government schools came under scrutiny after PTI MPA Dr Nausheen Hamid expressed disappointment over the government’s inability to recruit qualified teachers. Mashhood denied this and informed that the government had recruited 14,340 teachers only in the arts on the basis of merit. The PTI MPA continued her criticism stating that the two percent quota for blind persons and five percent quota for religious minorities in government jobs in Punjab were not being implemented in letter and spirit, which led to protests by these groups in the city. The education minister once again contradicted this statement and insisted that both groups were being accommodated in government jobs. He added that a complaint cell was functional at every divisional level and these were bound to submit monthly reports to the Secretary Schools and Education.
The PTI MPA in a separate question highlighted that promises by Punjab government to regularise teachers on contract were yet to be materialised and several lady

teachers were staging protests across the province. Even though notifications have been issued in this regard, Hamid claimed that the teachers were yet to get permanent status and benefit from financial security.
The minister in response said teachers with the required qualifications and three year tenure were being regularised and 109,000 teachers were regularised in 2010, 30,045 in 2011, and 16,666 in 2012. Mashhood also defended the government’s transfers policy for government teachers as he claimed it had significantly improved the teacher attendance rate to 96 percent and weeded out inefficient teachers without qualifications. Mashhood informed 20,000 Education District Officers had been removed as a part of actions against corrupt and inefficient employees. After interjections by independent MPA Ehsan Riaz Fatyana and PTI MPA Nausheed Hamid, Mashhood insisted that Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif does not exercise personal influence and allows the Schools and Education Department a free-hand in recruitments and transfers. The Deputy Speaker breaking from his neutrality supported the Education Minister stating to dissatisfied lawmakers on both benches that the state of education in his constituency in Rajanpur had improved with increased recruitment of qualified teachers.
Mashhood faced grilling questions by PML-N MPA Nighat Sheikh on lack of operations against unregistered schools and overcharging by private schools. The minister justified the lack of action taken against unregistered schools stating that efforts were underway to reform the schools in order to not deprive enrolled students. Mashhood stated that Punjab Education Foundation was providing education to more than 100 million students with all expenses paid by the government. The minister stated that the long delayed government bill on regulation of private schools had been approved by the Standing Committee on Education and was pending cabinet approval. PML-N MPA Nighat Sheikh however remained unsatisfied and lamented that profitable private schools were benefitting due to the absence of an effective law.
Leader of Opposition PTI MPA Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed echoed remarks made by Sheikh and claimed that no new government school had been built in the last 20 years in order to boost the profits of private institutions. Mashhood meanwhile in response stated that 800 schools under Punjab Education Foundation had been set up only in Lahore Division. He added that Punjab Textbook and Curriculum Authority had also in an unprecedented move devised a syllabus for grades 1 to 10.
The situation of missing facilities and dangerous school buildings was also brought to the notice of the House after PML-N MPA Bao Akhter Ali stated that Government Girls High School, Baghwanpura did not receive the needed funds to fix its buildings and ensure drinking water. In addition, Ali pointed that 20 schools requiring furniture in PP-144 did not receive funds for purchase.

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