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October 28, 2020

Study demands complete denationalisation of church schools and colleges

Karachi

October 28, 2020

Following the nationalisation of missionary educational institutes in 1972, the literacy rate among the Christian community declined while the number of out-of-school children increased after each passing year as the government couldn’t ensure the right to access education.

Instead of opening new schools, the federal government took control of the privately-managed educational schools and colleges earlier run by the trustees from minority groups. Back then, the nationalisation policy of educational institutes in 1972 not only discouraged the private sector of education and educators but also resulted into the present low literacy rate in the country. However, the authorities still intend to take over prestigious educational institutions that belong to the minority group.

These views were expressed by authors, researches and community members while discussing the effects of the nationalisation policy at the Karachi Press Club during the launch of a study, titled ‘Lessons from Nationalisation of Education in 1972’. The research is authored by Dr Tahir Kamran and Peter Jacob, while a foreword by Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash has been published, under the Centre for Social Justice.

The study claimed that the nationalisation has weakened the educational institutions which were functioning under the church and it also triggered substandard education. Even after this policy was changed in 1984, only a partial denationalisation had taken place till 2004, which after further drained resources, squeezed the equalizing potential and opportunities for the Christian community.

It has been highlighted that minority students in the nationalised schools and colleges are only 16 per cent, while minority teachers are only nine per cent. “In general, the nationalisation and following measures by the government failed to appreciate churches as a partner in raising the level and quality of education, though, in striking contrast, the performance of successive government in the field of education presented a dismal picture.”

Revealing the facts, the study claims that out of 22 colleges, around 72 per cent of institutions have been denationalised, while out of 97 nationalised schools only 43 per cent had been returned to the churches.

The research urges the provincial education departments and ministries of education to work out a plan and strategy for completing the denationalisation of remaining institutes along with a financial grant for the rehabilitation. “The government should also encourage all minority-run educational institutes so that they could effectively play their role in promoting education within communities and outside.”

Addressing the press conference, Peter Jacob, one of the study’s authors, said although the policy had been largely reversed in Sindh, more steps were required to provide an opportunity for public-private partnerships while focusing on enhancing the quality of education and universal education. He said the governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had not learned from their failure of policies in the past years.

Expressing concerns over the recent legislative and administrative steps taken by the Punjab government, Jacob said: “We are apprehensive that the new education policy measure will aggravate the ongoing problems at the Punjab Curriculum and Textbooks. Instead of fixing the rising extremism in society, the policy could make the situation worsened.”

Dr Riaz Shaikh, the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, said church schools were non-profited institutions that were providing free access to quality education regardless of faith. “They promoted diversity, pluralism and interfaith harmony. However, after the denationalisation, the government encouraged the private sector of education charging hefty amounts. Similarly, some religions are allowed to run thousands of seminaries, but church schools are under the control of authorities that is open discrimination.”

Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Research executive director Karamat Ali said the nationalisation of educational institutes was bureaucratisation. “At present, the government is neither giving access to quality education nor curtailing expensive education. Underprivileged parents can’t send their kids to schools and the out-of-school children are increasing day by day.”

He said the state was solely responsible for giving access to education as per Article 25-A of the constitution. “So, it means the government itself violates the constitution daily.”

Reverend Father Saleh Diego said there was no need to nationalise church schools back then. “But the state did what was not important. Christian children have the lowest literacy rate. They have no good jobs. All such miseries and sufferings have been facing by the Christian youth because church schools were taken into the government’s custody in the past.”