Several candidates in the July 25 elections have agreed to work together for the provision of quality education for children as mandated by the Constitution and based on the demands backed by a host of organisations, parents and community members in Bahawalpur.
Politicians belonging to various political parties gathered on Thursday at a political convention to discuss the state of education in District Bahawalpur, and offer for public scrutiny their five-year plans for the government-run schools.
The convention was organised by Ilm Rohi, and attended by Ex-Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman (NA-170, PMLN), Shazia Noreen (NA-170, APML), Dr Waseem Akhter (NA-170, MMA), Sami Ullah (PP-246, PTI), Allama Shafqat (PP-245, PTI), parents, youth activists and civil society members of Bahawalpur.
Analysis of the educational landscape in Bahawalpur showed a shortage of schools at post-primary level, and unavailability of basic school infrastructure and facilities as the two most important factors contributing to failing education standards.
75% of all the schools in the district are primary schools, with only 13% middle and 10% high schools. The students graduating out of the primary schools do not have enough schools to attend after Class 5, leading to drop-outs. In terms of infrastructure, there are 99 schools in Bahawalpur with no electricity and 65 schools do not have a boundary wall.
The number of schools is insufficient to cater to the needs of the district and, coupled with poor infrastructure in the existing schools, it severely impacts the quality of education imparted to the children. As per PEC results, mean science score of grade 5 students is 57 whereas it is 51 for grade 8 students.
Similar is the case with mathematics scores: grade 5 students mean score in mathematics is 62 whereas it is 52 for grade 8 students of Bahawalpur. Along with a shortage of subject specialist teachers in both boys and girls schools and lack of science labs, quality education has taken a massive hit in the schools here in the past many years.
During the session, Mr Baligh-ur-Rehman stated: “Free and compulsory education is the responsibility of the state and our party has worked towards ensuring that every child is in school. We started with various initiatives in Punjab, majority of which were piloted in South Punjab, and once we form the next government, we will scale up those projects in South Punjab”.
Sami Ullah Chaudhry from PTI said, “Our country needs a unified education system where the child of a poor citizen receives the same education as the child of a politician or any other privileged citizen.” MMA’s Dr Waseem said that their party would devote 10% of GDP to education once they come into power. He committed that his party would introduce technical education in schools as part of curriculum.
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Education has come a long way in 5 years with many miles to go