Indus Herald report:
The story of the Sindh Education Foundation, SEF, depicts the ineffective and ill-planned policies of the government of Sindh & its various institutions in the field of education. The performance of the Sindh Education Foundation, as reported here, also betrays the failure of the government to implement any major projects in education or other fields.
While emphasis is given these days on not to re-hire retired people or give them extensions, an educationist in her 80s is allowed to head SEF. As SEF is to mainly work in the rural areas in Sindh, its head would be expected to tour intensively the outlying districts of Sindh to know the peculiar requirements in the field. But the octogenarian simply can’t keep up with the demands of the job.
It is not the objective of this report to cast any aspersions on an honorable educationist but there must come a time when she should be given an appropriate award for her illustrious services and honorably retired. Someone more up to the job must replace her.
The Sindh Education Foundation is running two major programs to promote education in the province. Under the programs, subsidy based schools are to be opened in various areas. One of the programs is called Public Private Schools in Rural Sindh (PPRS). It is to promote low cost public private schools in rural Sindh. The project supported by the World Bank, has billions of rupees at its disposal. The PPRS is supposed to launch 1000 schools in four years in ten districts namely, Larakan, Khairpur, Dadu. Kamber Shahdatkot, Nawabshah, Sanghar, Umerkot, Mithi, and Badin.
Private sector is to be involved in the project and entrepreneurs would be encouraged to open schools in the areas with no government school in a 3-kilometer radius. Each school should have at least 70 students below 8 years of age. SEF is to pay a subsidy of Rs. 350 per student. The subsidy will be increased to Rs. 450 in case 80% of the students would be girls.
The main flaw of this program is the introduction of Oxford University Press books in these schools while these schools are opened in very remote area of Sindh where it is hard to find even matriculate teachers. Hence the bar has been lowered and Middle School pass candidates would be employed to teach at a salary of Rs. 3,000 only.
Although they will be imparted a brief training, they can’t be expected to teach the students Oxford University Press syllabus. That will be a big blow to the whole program. On the top of that the teachers are not paid salaries on time, sometimes for periods of over three months, as the government does not release subsidy funds on time. This discourages teachers as well as entrepreneurs involved in the program. There is also no proper supervision of the schools and no surprise visits to record progress and ascertain the attendance at the schools. The books are normally dumped at SEF offices and there is no mechanism to properly distribute them among the children.
The parents are worried at the state of affairs and for the education of their children having no say or any interaction with officials administrating the program.
Another failure of SEF is evident from the fact that in the first two years, only 300 schools have been launched while under the program 1,000 schools are to be opened in four years.
The other major program being carried out by the SEF is the Integrated Education Learning Program (IELP). Under this program, 1,200 schools are to be opened in 23 districts. It is also a subsidy-based program but so far it has proved to be failed program as well and a waste of funds.
This program is totally centralized. It may sound ridiculous but under the program, if a computer breaks down in Umarkot, a technician has to travel from Karachi to fix it. Most of the maintenance contracts are said to have been awarded to a relative of a director of SEF.
Gross mismanagement and inefficiency is witnessed from top to bottom at the six regional offices at Hyderabad, Larakana, Khairpur, Nawabshah, Mirpurkhas, and Dadu.
There is great need for restructuring and revamping of these two programs. Officials need to be appointed on merit and the programs need to be decentralized. Otherwise it would be gross injustice to the cause of education in Sindh and waste of hard to come by resources. The government needs to take immediate steps to rectify the situation.