Basic education infrastructure and teachers deserve highest priority


Basic education infrastructure and
teachers deserve highest priority
Good supervision, management, oversight,
meritocracy & accountability should be ensured
Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar
Former Surgeon General Pak Army, DGMS (IS)

I have written numerous times in Pulse International about the importance of Basic Health and the Basic Education. The highest priorities should be accorded to health and education. Children are future of the Nation and Education is the way to human development and progress.

During the colonial days and for a few decades Public school’s education had good standards. These schools produced giants like Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Dr. Abdul Salam and many others now there is no chance for a child studying in Public Schools to achieve higher position? There has been rampant corruption- the stories of ghost schools etc. Ayesha & Razzaque an independent education researcher and consultant at Islamabad holding PhD degree from the Michigan University is working with the Public schools - has described the prevailing situation in the lower and higher segments of the public schools. She says that calling them schools is beyond charitable: Many consist of a single classroom bounded by two feet high brick boundary, strung on supporting beams for a make shift roof and walls - fifty students sitting on the bare ground with no furniture with no electricity, no lights, no water, no bathrooms, no doors. It is a sight resembling a refugee camp.

Lt. Gen. (R) Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar

Other schools once had buildings but have fallen in such a bad state of disrepair that they now resemble ancient ruins with collapsed walls and roofs, missing doors and windows. These are not outlier cases there are thousands of schools that fit the description damaged by one cause or other over the last few decades. Clearly these schools suffer in every way and require help in every aspect. Problems are related to infrastructure one cannot expect children to spend five hours in school without running water, bathroom and soap. This is of greater concerns for girl’s schools-enough reason for parents to pull their daughters out of school. Some schools function in the open ground, children sitting on the ground and the teacher equipped with just a black-board - no school boundary wall. 

This aspect should receive top priority which is not being done. There is need for school buildings with access to potable and running water and toilets, at schools, electricity to run fans to bear the heat and class-room furniture play grounds, etc. Secondary and high schools need a science, computer lab and libraries.

Providing these essential facilities in school is low hanging fruits and is an easy way to raise enrollment rates for girls and boys. Govt. singular emphasis is on single National curriculum. The real problem is infrastructure and lack of well trained teachers even with SNC without proper infrastructure and well trained teachers, quality education cannot be imparted- it should receive top priority. Well trained teachers also well paid as well as well-respected, should receive top priority. There should be good supervision, management, oversight, meritocracy and accountability. Corruption in any form should be curbed.

Unfortunately, many high-profile education projects were designed for positive media coverage by the past governments. An example is the “DANISH” schools program in Punjab according to Public Information each of the 14 schools (7 for girls and 7 for boys) each takes in 110 students annually only 1540 students across all the “DANISH” schools. The question is “Is the amount spent per student the best use of very limited funds? It is certainly not. Islamabad, many cities and towns have modeled schools which have reasonable infrastructure, well equipped and reasonably well trained teachers. The academic output of these schools is quite satisfactory –they compete well with the elite private schools. These are cost-effective. It would be worthwhile if schools all over the country are run on the pattern of “model schools”. These schools need fewer funds and fewer efforts, unlike “DANISH” schools. Having done that single National curriculum may be considered.

These days there are news of child abuse and the problem of drug addiction. Full measures should be adopted to protect children. Children and parents should get information and education on these aspects of problems. Studies have shown that about 40% of children are suffering from stunting jeopardizing their future also of the nation. A nutritious meal should be served to the children in the school. There should be school health services. 

In conclusion the national priority should be to create schools with proper infrastructure proper buildings with electricity, fans, and heaters, running potable water, well equipped teaching material, well trained, better paid and respected teachers and clean washrooms. Education does not mean building elite schools-universities in every town-producing Ph.D.; that too of low quality. Basic education like basic health should receive the top priority. The Nation should not be allowed to be misled by demagogues and megalo maniacs. Enough is enough. Nation is at the bottom of the scale not only in the region but also amongst the World Nations. The inequality has increased the Nation’s genie coefficient has gone worse.

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