Alif Ailaan with his partner Kafka Welfare Organization has organized a School Management Committees Convention at Punjab University Lahore to discuss the issues and structure of SMCs, school funds, teacher and parent’s issues of public schools. The aim of event was to discuss highlight voice of parents to provide their children a better quality education. MNA Shafqat Mahmood, MPA Murad Ras, Schools Heads, Teachers and Parents participated in the session.
Shafqat Mehmood, MNA NA-126 Said:
· I am forced to say this with deep regret that we, as a nation, haven’t given education the priority that it deserves in the last 60 years.
· With regards to the suggestions regarding the effectiveness of SMCs, Shafqat Mehmood noted that the collaboration between SMCs and local councils could drastically improve educational outcomes in schools.
· Shafqat Mehmood identified three key issues pertaining to education; including missing facilities, lack of teacher training and nepotism in recruitment's.
Muraad Raas, MPA PP-152 Said:
· I visited this girls’ school in Ganga Ice Factory. I went to a classroom where half the students were sitting on the few chairs that were available while the other half were sitting on the floor. I could imagine how those sitting on the floor would be wondering, “why am I sitting on the floor while my friend gets to take the chair?” Through the very windows of the classroom, they could see the private school where children are playing basketball on lavishly carpeted grounds. I ask myself, are we really educating our children by creating such environments or are we wounding them psychologically?
· Recurrent issues raised by the audience included lack of basic facilities, lack of sufficient monetary incentives for teachers and lack of quality education in government schools. In this regard, Saniya, a teacher at Punjab University presented her personal case. Hailing from a government school herself, Sania went on to pursue her PhD in Political Science and is currently teaching at Punjab University. She shared her critical observation of there being a lack of focus on confidence-building, personality development and inculcation of ethics by teachers in government schools.
· Despite several issues raised, several parents and teachers noted that the majority of government schools in Model Town were functioning well. A good majority of the teachers in these schools had an academic qualification equivalent to M.Phil, while a few had post doctorate degrees as well. One head master, however, noted that the monthly salary being paid to an M.Phil pass teacher was as low as PKR 20,000. Without adequate monetary incentives, any hopes for retaining or attracting qualified teachers in government schools are at best misplaced. Furthermore, another head master from a school in Model Town noted that despite the political representatives reaffirming better functioning of government schools in the constituency, none of the representatives at various tiers had their own children enrolled in these “good government schools”. “All I ask is for them to give us a chance. To come visit and see for themselves”, noted the head master.
· A union Councillor from Model Town stated on the occasion that councils at union and tehsil level could play an instrumental role in the resolution of education issues at schools but as of now, no decision-making authority rested with the local councils.