Yesterday I spent my day at a village called Rawani (21 kms from Multan) where we (ITA/SAFED) are piloting a program to improve a citizen led improvement in learning skills and an enrollment drive to get all children (5-16) into some learning space which is now their fundamental Right Article 25 A of the constitution (18th Amendment Act 2010).
There are two schools there only govt. no private. Boys primary (recently upgraded to elementary grade 8 level) and Girls Elementary recently upgraded to high or grade 10). The boys school comes first and so I stopped first there to see what was happening. Established in 1902 by some bhallay log, it has over 200 boys enrolled. But there was one teacher present teaching something in English. The other 4 were not to be seen. The head teacher we found out is actually never there. He works as the clerk for the AEO (Assistant Education Officer); but he also works as the supervisor of the MPA/MNA schemes for school upgradation! He has three jobs and has just been promoted in his scale to (Elementary School Teacher-EST)! However, he cannot be found in the school , has a lot of clout and comes from the same village with the same family name. So I was told that one must beware as he has "roots''!or connections!
There was electricity in the school but no fans. Upon asking how much money is lying in the school council account they said it was Rs. 66800 but we will not buy fans as they have been approved in the school scheme since last year! They will come when they come. The government notification says spend this on all aspects and needs for the child's betterment.
The children gathered around me .. sparkle eyes, happy faces shared the new primers given to them by village/ITA volunteers for learning levels improvement. There are two volunteers who come at 11:00 am to help them read better through sounds and / phonic based approaches. Such a method helps a child to know how each alphabet moves in words and sentences so that they can truly know the lexicon.
The classes were full of mud and children wore uniforms of as many shades as they were in the school. Canes could be found in all classrooms (they said but these are used as pointers and some said the construction work is going on .. so these are handy tools ...for.." what?")
Soon the celebrated /absentee and 'much connected' headteacher arrived hearing that a lady has come in asking too many questions and knowing too many answers. He introduced himself and shared about his important work, his knowledge about sarkari documentation of PC 1 to PC 4 that he has to look after in the new MPA schemes and how the fans cannot be put in as they will 'eventually' come.. 46 degrees heat is acceptable!
Well I did what I had to in Rawani for the two schools and their problems (attitudes of head teachers) ; callousness for children's best interest ; as luckily I had organized the presence of a Deputy District Education Officer (DDEO) who arrived 30 minutes after my visit from Multan.. I wanted to take systemic actions .. not emotional ones.. and wanted the system managers to see if I had suggested all that is written in the system manuals! She was a good human being and a good officer luckily and she endorsed all decisions in writing.. .. The 500 children in the two schools looked very happy as they saw the electrician appearing in their schools for estimates on fans etc. Monday May 23rd is the deadline for fans and floor chatais... for children. the money is there .. the govt. spending guidelines are there.. it is the hearts and minds that needed to be aligned.. ..However the vision for education is no where to be seen in the system ...
The parents who came mostly mothers ..whispered to me to please help in changing the harsh attitudes of teachers; ensure that they come on time; teach properly and yes they would like to be included as members of the school council. So parents are interested in their children's education.. in the village of Rawani.
I share this story .. which is only part 1 of a 7 part story of my visit to elaborate that it resonates with our often emotional outbursts regarding our education system.
The National Curriculum 2006 for Grades Katchi through 12 in all subjects is not a bad one at all. In fact it is quite good. It has benchmarks of learning for each subject and grade level; it has standards and the entire focus is on having students' learning outcomes for each subject by grade. It is the SLOs that are to be the focus of examinations/assessments not a textbook or two.. (www.moe.gov.pk). However the tragedy of school education unlike Higher Education is that since 2006 in 4 of the 5 provinces 2010-2011 was the first year of the implementation of the National Curriculum in three grades (in some subjects) and in Balochistan, it is planned for 2012-13 for first year of implementation!
Meanwhile in Punjab all government schools have been declared English Medium! What does this mean? 10 days of training to two -three teachers per school in English speaking, writing and some reading and like magic you raise the black cloth..and now you have English Medium! Friends we have mucked around with the education system since 1947 never done any
serious thinking .. and just kept doing patch work as we went all along. Now the fabric so frayed that no matter where we plug it ,,it is in tatters..
So is this not the right time to really rethink and redesign the education system for All Pakistani Citizens which is so desperately needed by all parents and all children of this country .. as I saw in yesterday in Rawani .. without exception.. Let the opportunity of 25 A not go to waste ..it is for the first time that we can truly design what is decent and appropriate for our children 5-16 years of age.. Baela
P.S - In UK schooling is up to grade 13 or A levels and then 3 years of university and in Pakistan it is 12 years of schooling up to FA/FSC and then 4 years of university. It is 16 years here and there as it is in USA/ Canada as well.