PPP on positive track but the message is not getting to constituents

Reported By: Khalid Hashmani, USA

Washington DC, September 24, 2009 – A few members of Washington’s Sindhi community met the Minister of Sindh fo Education last week at an informal gathering. There was a candid exchange of views between the participants and the Minister about the plight of Sindhis and performance of PPP government in Sindh so far . The minister said that the government of Sindh is on the positive track but the story of their achievements is not getting reaching to their Sindhi constituents as Sindhi media is mostly focused on criticizing the government.

Pir Mazhar-Ul-Haq sahib said in spite of bad economic conditions, the PPP government has created more than 44,000 jobs and Sindhi-speaking population has received their fair share of those jobs. He said that people misunderstand that the provincial government is responsible for all aspects of education in Sindh. For example, the universities are answerable to their chancellor,, who in case of the universities located in Sindh is Governor of Sindh. The Boards of Education in Sindh are also not under the jurisdiction of Sindh Education Ministry. Pir sahib said the efforts of his Ministry alone cannot bring about a substantial change in the quality of education or achieve desirable enrollment targets. He added that to achieve tangible progress, all parties including the Education Department, parents, civil society, and students have to pitch in and play their role. In spite of surprise inspections and actions that have resulted in opening of 3,000 schools in Sindh, regrettably many more still remain closed as school buildings are illegally occupied for personal use and teacher absences remain high. The indifference and callous attitude of some head masters, teachers, and bureaucrats has been a cause of hinderence to improve education in Sindh. The principals of some schools do not utilize allocated budget to improve school conditions. Giving an example of a former Secretary of Education, who happens to be a Sindhi, the Minister said that this Secretary let school construction projects worth millions of rupees lapse by not approving their annual development budget last year.

The Minister was visiting Washington DC to attend a seminar organized by the World Bank and to meet officials of the Bank. It should be noted that World Bank is providing financial support to improve educational opportunities in Sindh. The Minister gave an example of a Bank-supported program under which retired teachers and other educationalists are supported to open schools in various areas. The key provisions of the program are as follows:

1. A new school must not be located with one and half kilometer of another school.

2. The school must have a minimum number of students with average attendance of 80%.

3. The Government/World Bank will pay Rs. 350 per male student and Rs. 450 per female student on monthly basis. In addition, the government will supply all books free of cost to students.

The Minister said that in spite of a strong advertisement campaign through newspapers, the number of applications received thus far is less than one thousand and only 280 applications have provided correct and verifiable information.

Commenting on the situation where the seats that were allocated for students from other districts have been cancelled in Karachi, the Minister gave the following information:

1. In each professional college located in Sindh, about 50 (the number varies depending upon capacity of the institution) for students from other districts.

2. Last year this policy was unilaterally changed by Dow Medical University and other professional colleges located in Karachi. As these colleges do not fall under the jurisdiction of Sindh Education Ministry, his Ministry is unable to cancel the policy change.

The Minister said that he had not given up the hope on the resolution of this issue as intense negotiations continue among various decision-makers and was hopeful that the issue of students from other districts of Sindh will be resolved soon.

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