Members of the public in Thatta were quite vocal in saying that their district has served as an experimentation zone where the government and the NGOs alike have initiated many new education projects but, sadly, none that delivered an improvement in the quality of education available to the common man/woman´s child.
The occasion also saw a rare admission by a candidate that his party — PPP in this case, did not do enough during its last tenure and could have done a lot more for the cause of education. All the candidates pledged to admit their own children in government schools.
Independent candidates as well as those belonging to major political parties not only had to defend their past performance, spell out the specifics of their future plans but also face public criticism in a face to face contact organised by Laar Education Campaign in support with Alif Ailaan.
Nine candidates participated in the event including those belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Peoples’ Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Muttahid Mujlase Amal (MMA). The rest were independents. The theme of the event was girls’ education, infrastructure and basic facilities and quality education.
To a question, Abdullah Ahmed Ghandro candidate of MMA PS-77 said his party has always given priority to education particularly of girls and he pledged to build new schools with transport facilities across the district if he was elected. Another candidate of MMA (PS -78) Abdul Majeed pledged to open new schools for girls and organise education seminars and improve overall education standards in the district.
Abdul Waheed Rind, independent candidate PS-79, pledged to provide teachers in government schools to ensure quality education. Muhammad Dawood Khaskheli, independent candidate PS-78, made a promise to provide curricular and co-curricular activities in all schools.
Ameer Hyder Shah, Ex-MPA PS-79 and a candidate in 2018 as well, admitted that PPP did not pay due attention towards education and promised to open all closed schools and ensure provision of adequate funds for the girls education in the district.
Habeeb Rehman Janwari, independent candidate NA-232, promised to facilitate teachers training and provision of basic facilities including labs and opening of a university campus of international standard in the district.
According to Alif Ailaan, the educational landscape in Thatta revealed a shortage of schools beyond the primary level for both girls and boys, gender disparity in enrolment and unavailability of basic infrastructure and facilities in schools. These were identified as the three most important factors contributing to failing education standards in the district.
And, as per a report presented by Mukesh Meghwar, president of Laar Education Campaign, about 93% of all the schools in the district are primary schools and only 7 higher secondary schools are available, a number insufficient to meet the needs of the students in the district.
Girls’ schools and their enrolment gets affected even more as there are only 12% girls’ schools in the district. Besides, lack of female teachers is another factor in girls’ enrollment decrease and such appointments must be made on an urgent basis to address the decline.
In addition, more than 63 schools in the district are still shelterless, 756 are one-room schools and 1,381 schools are without science labs, despite repeated promises by government officials, politicians and successive educations ministers to provide basic infrastructure, facilities and furniture in every school.
All these issues negatively impact the learning outcomes of students as evident by the low SAT scores achieved in languages, math and science.
The session, moderated by Aziz Sarwan, a known social activist, also saw the politicians presented with a charter of demands focusing on the provision of quality education in Thatta District.
The mood of the event could be gauged by the fury the community members expressed when one independent candidate tried to make a rather frivolous comment in an attempt to be light-hearted. The public shouted him down and said this was a serious occasion and not one for jokes.
The session was followed by another session with social activists and local authorities urging the community to vote for only the representative who pledge towards improving quality education in district Thatta.
Candidates sign charter of education demands
With over a hundred students per class learning is a challenge