Pakpattan candidates had to face a tough time at an event particularly when one participant asked why people should vote again for representatives chosen earlier who failed to deliver any improvement in the quality of education available in the area.
The convention was organised by Alif Ailaan and Ugaiti Soch (an organisation that works for education reform in Pakpattan and Kasur). The event was attended by Rana Awais Abid (AWP), Rao Azmat Ullah Khan (MMA), Rao Khalil Ullah (MMA), Mian Naveed Ali (PML-N), Nawab Ali Sukhera (IND) and Nadeem Iqbal Kharka (IND) along with parents, youth activists and civil society representatives and candidates for, and former members of, the national and provincial assemblies.
Mian Ahmed Raza Khan Maneka, from Pakpattan’s most famous and influential political family, and a PMLN candidate for the National Assembly, failed to show up at the convention.
Many parents and community members attending the event hailed the ‘Taleem Do, Vote Lo’ initiative, and complained to the politicians that several of their villages were still without a single primary school. Munazza Bokhari, a member from the audience, asked candidates why they should vote for them if they have won elections previously and yet the standard of education remains abysmal.
A look at the educational landscape in Pakpattan shows that availability of schools beyond primary access and poor quality education are the two most important factors contributing to failing education standards in Pakpattan.
Speaking at the session, Rana Awais Abid shared his experience of raising funds to build a computer lab at his child’s school as a member of School Management Committee in 1995. He urged parents to be proactive in their children’s studies and reach out to their representatives to seek solutions.
A majority of the candidates focused on building new schools and upgrading existing ones. Nadeem Iqbal Kharka talked about introducing rationalisation of student-teacher ratio in classrooms so teachers are able to teach effectively and students can receive bespoke instruction. Both MMA candidates promised if elected, they would provide free transport for both boys and girls for easier access to schools if they get elected.
As per Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017, released by Alif Ailaan, Pakpattan ranks 57th nationally and 33rd provincially on Education Score (that measures learning, retention and gender parity) with the retention rate as low as 43.32%.
Out of 903 total public schools in the district, 651 schools are only primary whereas remaining 252 schools provide beyond primary education. Lack of schools beyond primary levels explains why there is a drop in the enrolment rates as we move up the higher classes and shift of students to private schools. For every 4 primary schools, there is only 1 middle school. This leaves very little opportunity for children in Pakpattan to officially complete 12 years of formal schooling.
Based on the learning assessment conducted by Punjab Examination Commission, lowest learning outcomes are seen in the subjects of English, Math and Science. For both Classes 5 and 8, students have scored less than 60% in these foundational subjects. This can be attributed to low number of available subject specialist teachers and functional science labs.
Out of 98 high and higher secondary schools, 58 are without a physics lab, 59 without a chemistry lab and 59 without a biology lab, which means children have fewer resources to learning science in interesting and collaborative ways. Higher allocation for education budget, timely disbursement and effective utilisation of the allocated budget is important for improving quality in these schools.
All participants agreed to commit to a Charter of Demands that was based on the demands of parents, teachers and community members in Pakpattan to have the schools and quality of education improved in their respective constituencies in the coming months.
The demands are as following:-
Education system is focused on making children rote learning
Government should take demonstrable measures to encourage them
Convention sees election candidates signing up to specific steps