By Hamid Khan Wazir
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Office-Bearers of the Supreme Council of All Private Schools Associations on Thursday presented a ‘Charter of Demands’ to the government, seeking a relief package and immediate reopening of educational institutions to save the future of millions of students.
Speaking at a Press Conference in Islamabad, they said education and health play an important role in the development of a Country but unfortunately, these two areas had never been the priority of any government in Pakistan.
“Even in the annual budget, the amount allocated for these two sectors remains very low,” they said.
They said after a flare-up in coronavirus cases during the first wave of the pandemic, the educational institutions in the country were closed for a period of six months.
“The institutions opted for online education. But the steps taken by the public and private sectors to impart education in this way did not yield the desired results,” the reckoned.
“Educational activities were resumed on September 15 while adhering to complete safety measures. Educational institutions implemented the government’s SOPs in letter and spirit and that was also praised by the NCOC,” they maintained.
“But when the students started taking interest in education, the educational institutions were closed again. Thus, the only sector, which was strictly following SOPs was unfortunately once again closed.”
They said that more than 60 million students of the Country were coming to educational institutions in a disciplined manner, and rather they were in a more secure environment. But by granting them leaves once again, they were made to roam freely in the streets, bazaars, markets, shopping plazas, and recreational spots. Currently, except educational institutions, all departments are opened.
Citing a recent report of UNICEF, they said the future of more than 40 million students in Pakistan was at risk due to the closure of educational institutions.
They said that around 80% students of poor families were deprived of online education.
“The difference between other Countries and Pakistan is that the closure of educational institutions was the last option for them while here in our Country this is the first option,” they added.
Referring to a report of the Centre for Disease Control, they said that children under the age of 18 were less likely to be infected with the coronavirus.
Highlighting, the massive impact of a prolonged closure of educational institutions they said:
The passing ratio in the Matriculation and Intermediate Special Examinations across the Country remained very low. The average success rate in the Federal Board is only 13%, whereas in all the educational boards in Punjab it is 15%. That means the effects of the prolonged closure of educational institutions have begun to appear.
“These were the students, who had compartments in one or two subjects in Class IX and First Year examinations of last year. If they had to appear in the examination of all the subjects, then you can assess what would have been the situation.”
Presenting their ‘Charter of Demands’ they said:
- The students of Punjab, Balochistan, and Azad Kashmir should also be allowed to come to schools at least once in a week on the pattern of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad, and Sindh.
- Educational institutions should be reopened with full SOPs to save the future of students.
- The government provided relief to all other sectors but unfortunately, educational institutions were completely ignored. Perhaps, it is the only sector that provided a 20 to 40 percent discount on its fees. Thousands of educational institutions have been closed due to the prolonged closure, announced by the government. The government should immediately announce a relief package for these institutions.
- The small educational institutions should be given concessions in electricity and water bills and their tariff should be made domestic as it has been in the past.
- Social Security and Old Age Benefit contributions should be abolished at least for one year.
- The decisions taken by the government without taking on board the stakeholders put a question mark on its performance. Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood, and the Chairman NCOC Asad Umar are requested to reconsider these anti-education decisions.
The Office-Bearers of the Supreme Council who spoke at the Press Conference included Nasir Mahmood, Malik Azhar Mahmood, Dr. Afazal Babar, Abrar Ahmad Khan, Hafiz Muhammad Basharat, Chaudhry Obaid Ullah, Malik Abrar Hussain, and others.