Candidates for both the national and provincial assemblies from Jhelum have pledged to place access to quality education as their foremost priority if elected to office in the July 25 elections
An event organised by Chaj Taleem and Sustainable Social Development Organisation, and attended by parents, youth activists and civil society members of Jhelum, saw major parties represented. Nadeem Khadim (PMLN), Tasneem Nasir (PPP), Bilal Azhar Kiani (Indep), Shahid Kamal (APML), Chaudhary Zafar Iqbal (PTI), Saeeda Mehnaz (APML), Kashif Islam (PPP and, the first transgender candidate Lubna Lal from PTI-G. Fawad Hussain Chaudhary of PTI was represented by Raza Chaudhary at the event.
An analysis of the educational landscape in Jhelum revealed that availability of schools beyond primary, access, quality of education and slow and ineffective utilisation of education budget are the three most important factors contributing to falling education standards in Jhelum.
64% of the schools in the district are at the primary level. The students graduating out of the primary level do not have enough schools to attend post primary and this result into a steady decline in enrolment at middle level as compared to the primary level, leading children to discontinue their education.
Moreover, several existing schools in Jhelum have dangerous and open air classrooms while only 12% high schools have science labs. As a result, these factors have negatively contributed to poor learning outcomes for students. Both budget allocations and budget utilisation need to be strengthened for the improvement of education in Jhelum.
While speaking at the session Tasneem Nasir of PPP (NA-66) said that during his last tenure he was instrumental in getting 28 schools upgraded and the opening of two colleges. The candidate said regardless of which party was in power education and health must be retained as top priorities.
Ch. Nadeem Khadim of PMLN (NA-66) said if the next generation gets a quality education it will be fully capable of providing the country with capable leadership. He said the PML government ensured that school enrolment went up and also involved the teachers in this area. The PMLN candidate lamented the general state of government schools and called for proper check and balance.
Shahid Kamal of APML (NA-67) said education was the first item on his party´s manifesto. He said regardless of whether or not he was elected, he was prepared to cooperate with any and every political party as education was such a critical issue.
Raza Chaudhry (Represented Fawad hussain of PTI (NA-67) said he was pleased that rather than indulge in pointless issues the candidates had been brought together for such a significant issue. Reiterating that school education was every child´s Constitutional right, he said if people sent more educated people to Parliament the cause of education would be better served.
He was of the opinion that management of education should be devolved to the local level as only grassroots level democracy could deliver on such an urgent need of the people.
Kashif Islam of PPP (PP-26) underlined the fact that the schools lack basic facilities. Calling for a uniform standard of education he said the government schools were found lagging behind private schools in the quality of education being provided. No society could progress without quality education, he added.
Saeeda Mehnaz of APML (PP-26) lauded the initiative to bring together all candidates for this good cause and said as a parent she understood well the importance of quality education. She said she herself went to a school where the classroom did not have furniture and she sat on matted flooring to learn.
Lubna Laal (Transgender) PTI-G (PP-26) said she had been going door to door for 30 years in attempt to convince parents of the importance of education for their children. She said what to talk of society at large their own parents do not accept transgender children as their own. “If I didn´t have the little education I do I would have faced even greater difficulties in life.”
All the candidates also signed a charter of demands, accepting every child´s Constitutional right to an education and making a commitment to leave no stone unturned to ensure quality education was made available in their constituencies if they were elected.
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