By: Saqib Ali Haidri
Muzaffarabad: A multi-party convention was held in Muzaffarabad on Sunday to discuss the failing state of education in district Muzaffarabad, and probe reasonable solutions to ensure quality education across the government-run schools.
The convention was organized by Alif Ailaan, and attended by Dr. Mustafa Bashir (Pakistan Muslim League-N, Chairman Public Account Committee) Ch. Shehzad Mehmood (Member Legislative Assesmbly), Khawaja Farooq (Pakistan Senior Vice President AJK Tehreek-e-Insaf), Sheikh Aqeel ur Rehman (Vice Ameer Jamat-e-Islami AJK), Ch. Rasheed (Ex Minister PWD & Local Government PPP) Ch.Shafqat (DG Kahmir Cultural Academy), Shuakat Javed Mir (Media Advisor PPP)——–along with other politicians, parents, youth activists and civil society members of the assemblies in Azad Kashmir.
Analysis of the educational landscape in Muzaffarabad revealed that availability of schools beyond primary access, poor school infrastructure, and weak data regime are the three most important factors contributing to failing education standards in Muzaffarabad.
Out of 892 total schools in the district, 72% schools are only primary whereas 28% 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, especially for girls. The middle and high or higher secondary schools are at greater distances from their households. The most troubling fact is that out of these 892 schools, only 1% of these are higher secondary schools, leaving very little opportunity for children in Muzaffarabad to officially complete 12 years of formal schooling.
Poor school infrastructure is another startling feature of Muzaffarabad’s schools. According to Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017 released by Alif Ailaan, out of 155 ranked districts, Muzaffarabad ranks 105 nationally in primary school infrastructure and 145 nationally in middle school infrastructure. A large percentage of schools across all the levels lack basic facilities which is one of the reasons of low enrolment of students in public schools. 63% schools do not have the facility of drinking water whereas 78% schools do not have electricity. Several schools destroyed due to 2005 earthquake are yet to be rebuilt after 13 years.
However, a correct analysis for Muzaffarabad’s schools cannot be fully made without comprehensive, accurate, latest and readily available data is provided to the education managers and political representatives who are seeking meaningful solutions in their constituencies. There is no recent education census data for Azad Kashmir. The numbers presented at the convention as well as otherwise available at the national level are almost three years old.
Dr Mustafa Bashir (Pakistan Muslim League –N) highlighted that for the children of AJK to progress, the need is to use the existing budget efficiently. “Let’s commit to implementing long term education reforms in the province for the sake of our own children”, said Dr Mustafa Bashir, while explaining the importance of School Management Committees in schools across the province. He said that each politician having attended today’s convention should be held accountable for the commitment regarding “Misaq-e-Ilm”.
Vice President Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Khawaja Farooq stressed that there should be no political point scoring in education. All political parties must work together to ensure that the children of Muzafarabad are their top most priority and hence allocate more and efficient financial resources for quality education in AJK. Sheikh Aqeel ur Rehman (Jamat-e-Islami) urged the government to allocate at least 50% more funds to education in AJK while emphasizing that the multifold returns of investing in education of the future generation.
Representatives of Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League – N, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and other political parties present at the convention reinforced that every political party must work towards committing to appointment of teachers through NTS to underpin merit-based recruitment of teachers throughout AJK.
All participants agreed to commit to a Charter of Demands (attached with this press release) that was based on the demands of parents, teachers and community members in Muzaffarabad to have the schools and quality of education improved in their respective constituencies in the coming months.