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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Education in KPK: Government’s steps towards betterment

Miangul Majid Khan |

As soon as the PTI-led KP government came into power in 2013, it declared an education emergency in the province. As part of its election manifesto, Imran Khan reiterated his firm resolve at the onset to upgrade the system of education across the province. In the maiden budget, the KP government increased the education budget from 61 billion in 2012-13 to 81 billion in 2013-14. The current statistics shows that the budget in 2016-17 is 118 billion, and is expected to be 139 billion in 2017-18. Thus, there is an increase of 128% percent since the new set up took charge. Indeed, in tens of financial allocation, the government seems true to its words. However, an appraisal is necessary to find if this increase has been materialized and whether the government has been successful in achieving the desired outcome.

E&SE: a brilliant performance so far

It is no exaggeration to say that the Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) department has witnessed the real change. Part of it can be attributed to its dynamic minister, Atif Khan, who worked with passion and left no stone unturned to visualize some revolutionary changes in education. He has brought tremendous reforms in the E&SE education, which are worth mentioning:

Read more: KP government allocates Rs.139 billion for education

Development of infrastructure and basic facilities

In infrastructure and basic facilities, the provincial government is spending heavily. In 2013, the number of non-functional schools in the province totaled 397, which have been reduced to 125 in 2015-16 due to effective policies. There was a lack of facilities. Boundary walls, water supply, electricity, and toilets were missing in most of the schools. A comparison of missing facilities is given here graphically.

The province was badly affected by militancy and natural calamities. More than 800 schools were damaged due to natural calamities. The government addressed the issue on war footing issue and reconstructed some 761 schools in a short span of time.

Approximately, 179 militancy- hit schools have been re-opened in Malakand agency alone. Besides, a total of fourteen hundred community schools have been established that impart education to 70,000 students in the province. The government is spending 100 billion on these community schools. Some 1231 schools have been provided with additional classrooms and 12,198 schools with clean drinking water.

Read more: Education reforms in KP: Right steps at the right time

As the country is in the grip of a serious energy crisis, a majority of the schools had power outage problems. To get rid of excessive load shedding, the government installed more than 5000 solar panels in the government schools to have an uninterrupted supply of electricity at daytime.

Information Technology

The modern age has rightly been called the age of Information technology (IT). It is the soul of modern global education. A nation cannot progress until its youth is under the influence of information technology. The PTI-led KP government is well on its way in this field. In this connection, the provincial government has established 1340 state of the art IT labs in different schools of the province, with more to come in future. Microsoft has endorsed this effort and has offered to train 15000 IT teachers with free certification, which, otherwise, would have cost Rs.30, 000 per head.

Some serious efforts in academics

For the first time in the history of KP, new vacancies in schools have been advertised and filled for four years consecutively. More than 40,000 teachers have been recruited through NTS so far, still other to follow. The government has ensured merit up to the maximum level in recruiting teachers in the province as no case of demerit has been reported. These vacancies were once openly bargained or kith and kin were inducted in pre-PTI era. Of course, the credit goes to Atif Khan who is fully devoted and committed to eradicating nepotism and favoritism. It is heartening to know the positive reaction of the people. Mr. Ibad Khan, a senior clerk in the Education Department at Tehsil Timergara told me about political interference in recruitment and transfers: “there has not been a single case where Atif Khan, the Education minister, called or sent a letter for any illegal job or transfer to us.”

Read more: Pakistan’s defective examination system: reforms or demise?

Incentives for teachers

Teaching is conventionally interpreted as a prophetic profession; however, in reality, the teachers could not get that much respect from the government and masses in Pakistan. The best policy to attract talent in education is to incentivize the profession. Pakistani teachers are receiving less appreciation in the form of incentives and are mostly living up to hollow and shallow promises. In this backdrop, unlike the federal government, the provincial government has done the considerable job for school teachers. The government has upgraded and promoted the school teachers and have increased their salaries.

To enhance and improve the teaching capabilities of teachers across the province, they are trained under British Council.

Nationalization policy of teachers has produced thousands of new vacancies. Likewise, the current policy of recruitment and promotion is 25%: 75%( 25% new recruitments and 75% promotions). Numerous teachers have been promoted to SST and SS. A school in Timergara which once had four SSTs is now having 16. Besides recruitment and promotions, the government has imposed a ban on transfers and there is minimum political interference.

To enhance and improve the teaching capabilities of teachers across the province, they are trained under British Council. Some 83000 teachers to be trained till the end of its term. Independent monitoring system (IMS) and Biometric attendance system (BAS).

Read more: Changing the academic landscape of Pakistan: Genuine educational leaders needed

There was a time when teachers used to take salaries at their homes. The majority of the teachers were in Saudi Arabia or somewhere else and considered their government jobs as secondary. Still other ran vehicles or did private business. To curb this menace, the government did something revolutionary. With the advent of IMS and BAS, those ghost servants have been captured. The majority of them have been brought back to their schools or terminated. The monitors have been given Android mobile phones to take the data of schools and teachers. They take into consideration the missing facilities and teachers. It is the monitoring system which helped minimize the missing facilities and ghost teachers. Due to this vigilant monitoring system, teachers’ absenteeism has been reduced from 15% to 12%.

Since the launching of IMS and BAS, the government has recovered Rs. 19,848,000 from absent teachers. And more wisely, 15 crores of that amount have been awarded to the best teachers. Out of 11403 absent teachers, 1000 of them have been terminated or compelled to retire before time.

To provide the best staff to the students, the government has decided to arrange a test for the previous teacher, selected without NTS in the previous governments. Those who qualify the test will continue and the rest will be given a golden handshake. However, the government is facing much resistance from the teachers in this regard.

Read more: Why Punjab’s Education in a total mess? Can it be fixed?

Students: the center of all these policies

KP Assembly has passed an act, according to which, free education is compulsory for all the children from age 5-16 years. Any parent who violates this act will be penalized according to the law.

The government is trying to ensure free education by various methods. Enrollment drives (school dakhla muhem) are done every year. Teachers and members of civil society could be seen carrying placards and banners in their hands walk through the bazaars, streets and various villages to convince parents for admissions of their children in schools.

Similarly, the government is giving free books to the children. So far, 80,000 thousand books have been given to the children free of cost. According to a research, drawing, and coloring the books make the students creative and polish their analytical skills. To make the students creative, the government is giving drawing coloring books. In this regard, four million drawing coloring books have been distributed among the children so far.

A student can learn better in a spacious spatial and peaceful environment. It becomes easy, even for the teacher, to teach and manage such a peaceful class. For this purpose, the govt is trying to establish a ratio of 40:1(40 students per teacher).

Read more: Sindh’s Education Budget has more money but is it going anywhere?

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “give me an educated mother, I shall promise you the birth of a civilized, educated nation.”

The government is stressing female education and their jobs. The new admission policy is female centered. IT centers for female children and adults have been established in various schools. The new policy of building classrooms is 2:1(2 for female 1 for male).
To empower and educate the females of this nation, first ever Cadet College has been built in Mardan by the efforts of education minister, Atif Khan. To empower and encourage the females further, the government has passed a bill according to which, a female teacher will teach at primary level. Research suggests that female teachers work hard on students and teach them well because of their maternal care. To give the true teachings of Islam to the student, Quranic education and Nazira is made compulsory up to class 12th.

Due to the student-friendly policies of the government, trust of the people has been restored in government schools. The students of private schools are migrating to government schools. More than 34,000 such students have migrated from private to government schools. Due to this trust and to further encourage the masses, the PTI ministers are setting examples by admitting their children to government schools. Zartaj and Ziaullah Bangash are examples of such ministers.

To educate the street children, the government has started a project in the name of “Zamong kor” where orphans and street children are given free education.

Another program to educate the ignored and illiterate masses is “speed literacy program.” A school has been established in Changarabad, Peshawar, in this connection. The uneducated and much-ignored people of changarabad are given free education for one year to make them literate.

Read more: KP government introduces a Muslim Board to overview legislation, Education

The remaining article highlights the issues, programs, and performance of Higher Education department.

Higher Education: a contrasting story

Much was expected in higher education from PTI government according to their promises and claims, but that didn’t happen altogether. Higher education has been handed over to Mushtaq Ghani, advisor to CM. His performance is poor in this regard. Contrary to the developments in E&SE, the Higher Education is witnessing a “dark age.”

Lack of heads of the department and their frequent change has brought the department to a standstill

The provincial government is paying no heed towards Higher education. Lack of interest is clearly evident from the fact that eight administrative secretaries have been changed since PTI came into power in the province.

Directorate of Higher Education was running without a director for more than two years.

During this period, many of the university ran without vice chancellors for years. Presently, some eleven universities of KP are without vice chancellors. An act for reforms was tried as insisted by Imran Khan, called the “university reforms act” was passed by the Provincial Assembly. Imran Khan got the assistance of former Chairman HEC, Dr. Atta Ur Rahman. A search and screening committee led by Dr. Atta Ur Rahman was formed to search competent and neutral VCs for the universities. The committee recommended some names but the Higher Education in KP failed to implement that. They succumbed to the pressure of status quos in the universities.

Directorate of Higher Education was running without a director for more than two years. Thank God, finally, they got one a month before.

Read more: Lack of education doubles chance of heart attack

Infrastructure and missing facilities

No mentionable work has been done for the infrastructure in universities and colleges. Contrary to E&SE, now new rooms and IT labs have been built in colleges. Being a lecturer, I can quote my college, GPGC Timergara. The college has a deteriorated main block where cracks can be seen. Had the disaster management cell visited this college, they might have declared this unsafe for any sort of activities. We have asked the Directorate, Secretariat, and government to make a new building for us but they have turned a deaf ear to our demands. I will invite everyone to visit our examination hall which is not less than the ruins of Moenjodaro and Harappa. Ironically, the college does not have an auditorium. Same is the case in other colleges of the province. In these three and half years, neither Secretary nor Mushtaq Ghani has visited the college. As he belongs to Hazara, he visits there but never to other parts of the province.

Instead of this, the colleges should have been provided with IT labs, modern digital libraries, and laboratories. The colleges and universities should have been made centers of modern research. Sorry to say that we do not have Atif Khan for our higher education.

Teachers in Higher Education

Contrary to E&SE, where more than 40,000 teachers have been recruited, the Higher Education is witnessing a shortage of teachers in colleges. Many slots of lecturers are still lying vacant but the government is unable to fill these.

Read more: Higher Education Vision 2025

College teachers/professors have been ignored badly. They are protesting for their due rights of up gradation and teaching allowance but who cares? Up gradation had been announced for both college and university teachers in 2005 by the then prime minister, Shaukat Aziz on “Salam Teachers Day”; the university teachers got that but not by the college teachers. Imran Khan has affirmed many times that he would incentivize the doctors and teachers to get the best of them. He fulfilled that promise in terms of doctors by giving them professional allowance worth 60,000, but not in terms of professors, why? Why such a discrimination? Will this be a respect of professor in “Naya Pakistan?” will this be the status of a professor to be on the roads for their due rights?

Political interference in administrative bodies

Unlike minister E&SE, Atif Khan, Mushtaq Ghani failed to eradicate political interference. The majority of the big chairs have been filled through political interference. Politics is deep rooted in Higher Education. One needs to be politically strong to become a director or principal.

Political transfers are on the peak. I have many such examples but the situations do not permit me to mention that.

Read more: To improve education in Pakistan we need 2-Way communication

To pursue higher studies, one needs an NOC from the Directorate. But even NOC needs a political backup. In one such case, I went Directorate for getting NOC for my higher studies. I was so naive to try it without any political background. The Directorate mired me in numerous complexities. Rules came so hard on me. But when another lecturer went there, with political backup, you won’t believe, he got the NOC in thirty minutes, though his case was similar to mine.

In short, as compared to E&SE, the Higher Education is mired in numerous problems. Imran Khan and CM KP Pervaiz Khattak should take notice of Higher Education.

Majid Khan holds a Ph.D. degree in Zoology. He is currently serving as a lecturer in Government Postgraduate College Timergara, Dir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.