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Mansehra’s education system in a shambles

Mansehra’s education system in a shambles

With dozens of schools lacking basic facilities, hundreds of children getting education under the open sky and scores of teacher posts lying vacant, the public sector education system in Mansehra district is in a shambles by and large.

For that reason, the private educational institutions in the district fare far better than their government-run contemporaries in matriculation and intermediate examinations.

Critics lay the blame for this sad state of affairs on the local education department, which, according to them, consumes more than 70 percent of the district’s annual development budget but has miserably failed to deliver the goods to the misery of the local population mostly comprising poor people.

The department oversees more than 2,200 primary, middle, high and higher secondary schools in the district with a total of 247,757 people enrolled there, including 169,141 boys and 78,636 girls.

Of these schools, 1,400 are for boys and 806 for girls.

As for the boys’ schools, 1173 are primary, 116 middle, 87 high and 24 higher secondary, while 673 of the girls’ are primary, 74 middle, 86 higher and 13 higher secondary.

Ironically, students of 96 boys and girl schools have been attending classes in open places and 279 in prefabricated shelters since the buildings of their educational institutions were destroyed by the 2005 earthquake.

In the recent years, a nongovernmental organisation engaged by the Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority rebuilt 460 schools before handing them over to the education department. There is an acute shortage of staff, especially teachers, at schools in the district.

As shown by the statistics, more than 1,020 posts of male and female teachers have long been lying vacant.

Also, around 120 boys’ schools in the district have no principal or headmaster, while there’s no science specialist at most schools though more than 100 posts are vacant. Things are no different at girls’ schools.

In the district, more than 60 schools for girls are functioning without principals and headmistress.

Of late, the nazim stepped in and announced his ‘commitment to taking revolutionary steps’ to drastically improve education sector in the district.

He’s declared 2016 the ‘educational year’ for Mansehra.

“In view of all challenges facing education system in our district, I have chosen to work hard to bring the public sector’s educational institutions on a par with the private sector’s,” Sardar Said Ghulam told Dawn.

The nazim insisted he knew the education department ‘ate up’ more than 70 percent of the district’s annual budgetary allocations made by the provincial government but its performance was dismal.

“Not only have I declared the current year the educational year for Mansehra but also I’ve taken drastic measures to turn around the public sector educational system in the district. I’m confident these measures will help schools perform better on both curricular and extracurricular fronts,” he said.

The nazim said he had taken the representatives of almost all political parties, academia and education department on board on the ways to ‘overhaul education system’.

“Now, all those children previously unable to get education due to financial constraints are being given scholarship for studies,” he said.

Mr. Said Ghulam said the district government regularly organised seminars and other events to sensitise people to the importance of education, which, he believed, would help increase school enrollments and decrease dropouts.

He complained about long delay in the reconstruction of the schools destroyed by the 2005 earthquake and insisted it was adversely impacting on the cause of education in the district.

“We’ve taken up the issue with both federal and provincial governments but there’s no progress on it,” he said.

On the other hand, the education department insists it’s taking necessary steps for the betterment of the public sector education system in the district.

District education officer Nisar Mohammad told Dawn that soon after assuming the office of late, he had ordered disciplinary action against the schoolteachers, who either absented themselves from duty or didn’t work diligently.

“Of the inefficient teachers, 71 were sacked, 51 were given compulsory retirement, payment of increment to 84 was suspended, 10 were demoted, more than 2,200 got warnings, while Rs531,000 was recovered from absentee teachers,” he said.

The DEO said he would ensure by all means that the teachers give quality education to students as desired by their job and that those not doing it would be dealt with strictly. He said the department was in the processing of filling all vacant schoolteacher posts.

“We recently advertised 364 posts of female teachers and 478 of male teachers in newspapers. All vacancies will be filled though the National Testing Service,” he said.

Mr. Nisar Mohammad said 164 teachers were recently appointed to schools, while 330 teachers were promoted for good performance. He said a mechanism was being developed to reward teachers doing duty honestly and with dedication.

Senior Teachers Association Mansehra chapter president Shahid Mohammad Khan insisted political interference in their affairs was to blame for the poor performance of government schools.

“I would never say our department is doing very well especially when the appointment of almost all teachers in Mansehra between 1985 and 2000 were made on political basis. Just tell me how such teachers could go to schools,” he said.

Mr. Shahid however said for the first time in history, the government had empowered the education department to manage its affairs on its own free will.

“As there’s no political interference, we can expect some positive outcomes from the department,” he said.

He said in the past, even a peon used politicians for the transfer of a principal but things had drastically changed since the formation of the PTI government in the province which had introduced the ‘policy of merit’ in all departments, especially education department.

Safada Village Council nazim Basharat Ali held the parent-teacher councils responsible for the poor performance of schools.

“The government has formed PTCs at all schools to check the performance and attendance of teachers and address problems faced by students. However, they don’t work in accordance with their mandate by and large. Accordingly, students are on the receiving end,” he said.

Mr. Ali demanded that government empower village and neighbourhood councils to exercise the powers of PTCs.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2016

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