By Syed Shams Uddin
PERCEPTIBLY THOUGH, a ‘post’ on public sector education in Gilgit-Baltistan emanating from and encountered on social media very recently made revelations, rather bluntly, about the messiness associated with the ongoing teaching practices in the public sector school system, pointing out therein, a litany of flaws concerning them exhibitive of a great nonchalance hindering any positive change. It referred to the system as having undergone preposterous stages overtime, thereby plaguing it in entirety almost to an irremediable extent viewed in terms of delivering quality education to the poor masses. Caustically criticizing, it tended to make public how the performance of government schools across GB remains subject to an alarming exacerbation and made an impassioned appeal to all the stakeholders to rise to the occasion and join the consistent struggle to get the department back on the rails. The cri de coeur is obviously aimed at getting things addressed fully and holistically to save the decaying public sector school system – the mainstay of the poor masses – from further degeneration and to make it credible once again, in the eyes of general public.
There can be no gainsaying that development of an appropriate direction in education and teaching methodology available to all alike, runs parallel to the larger vision in society of what constitutes an adequate and rewarding way of life. Education therefore, has to yield to demands of change as readily as other areas of living. The announced aim will have to be the provision of an education fully and indiscriminately, for all children of society in like manner, acting upon the democratic base of contemporary life calls for a broadly uniform and enriching system attuned to the particular conditions obtaining in today and making very well-poised to provide a flexible base for the desired qualities of tomorrow for, there will have to be an ideal blueprint or marching plan, which if followed, to enable to grapple with the enormous change. This, in sums, means the urgency or expediency of uniform system of education to diffuse learning reaching out to all segments of society to enable generations’ unhindered acquisition of practical skills.
Having a quiet read of the contents would make it plain that the disclosure seemingly comes from someone part of the public sector school in Gilgit-Bltistan, closely witnessing the goings-on there with wistfulness and utter disillusionment. Be it as it may, the ‘post’ began with the blunt and outright observation inter alia, that those employed in the private sector schools mostly constitute the lot which, according to him, having not been successful to get selected through public service commission tests for appointment to public sector teaching job, desperately joined the private schools system. However, it at the same time, tends to acknowledges that the private schools teachers, though facing innumerable constraints in terms of compatible remuneration, vertical mobility, service security etc. – something needing a judicious consideration to address their woes in consonance with the underlying principles of natural justice – have consistently been giving wonderful results as opposed to the public sector school teachers. This glaring difference in terms of results between the two (private and public sectors) is well a pointer in the direction that the public sector school system utterly fails to deliver despite being hugely funded and regardless of getting manned by considerably trained and well-paid teachers receiving colossal amounts in form of handsome salaries coupled with guarantees of unhindered mobility upward as opposed to what may be called a modicum or a mere fraction of it being offered to a private sector schools teacher. It is, nonetheless, another matter that calls for removal of the apparent disparity in terms of remuneration between the two sectors besides ensuring identical service security as justice and equity demand something requires to be made binding on the employers of the private sector schools. Again referring to the government schools, it makes a mention to the effect that things have overtime, precipitated to such an alarming extent that these have by now, completely lost their credibility as getting very well testified by the fact that all those who can afford a little have a propensity to seek admission for their children in private sector schools instead. Even the poorest segment tends to do this by resorting to whatever loans they can get from anywhere it could become possible for them as everyone naturally has the longing to be recipient of an equitable dispensation to seek quality education for his or her children in the present day competitive world.
It may profitably be referred to the plight of certain poorer and mega poor families across this region and how seeking knowledge for children of such segments of society is hurdled by the complete loss of credibility by the public sector schools system. For instance, one Liaqat Ali whom this scribe came across, owns merely a piece of land comprising 1 kanal or 2 at Danyore which given free to him by his father-in-law he has not yet been able to erect a shelter thereon. His plight is, in sum, that he perennially remains hectically engaged to make a living for his 04 member family ( 03 children and wife), wakes up early in the morning, puts his tools in his backpack and sets out routinely in search of work, going from door to door – to repair pressure-cookers and sewing machines – something he is engaged in from his childhood to eke out existence. In his continued striving, he has to go as far as Chamogarh village daily in a bid to earn every day to earn more but nonetheless, it seldom fetches him an earning that averages Rs.4 to 5 hundred despite his unrelenting efforts from dawn to dusk at a stretch, barely totaling 14 to 15 thousand per month. Despite being in dire straits, he feels obligated to send his 3 sons to the nearby private school and pay fees with the longing to educate them. It may be well imagined how the poor soul can meet the recurring expenses –both for the subsistence of the family and those arising out of the recurring school fee-charge of children. He states that after he had tied the knot some two decades ago, his father-in-law gave the piece of land and he built a shelter (stone-built) – a ‘jugee’ type unworthy of being called a room. Subsequently however, he laid the foundation of two rooms and did up to the plinth level but was constrained to abandon the remaining work obviously being in desperate financial straits as his toiling did not led any incremental rise in remuneration while became further burdened by admitting his children to the nearby private school. Having thus been precluded from resuming the work for long, he somehow re-started it and erected the two small rooms but their roofing hangs in balance till this day for obvious reasons. During this period, he ventured to breed a few chicks – a minuscule business activity which too yields intangible results insofar as supplement the family income to meet the barest minimum needs is concerned. Under these circumstances, tightening the belt even does not become a fitting description to delineate the plight the family is in where the barest minimum living expenses outstrip the probable wage-earning, he says.
He put the fee of children at about Rs.4400/- (approx) per month at this stage – indeed, something very hard to be borne by him. The same is the case of another Muhammad Jabir in the vicinity of Sehhat Foundation hospital Danyore who is wage-earner with a block manufacturer nearby who too, could not build a two roomed shelter for identical reasons. There are countless other mega-poor families all across the region, floundering, nay, literally wiggling in the mire of poverty-trap yet have a deep yearning to educate their children – something that appears an elusive dream.
Had there been a system in place to enhance quality of school education in the public sector schools, all the poor and mega poor would not have been hesitant to send their children to them. How quality of education in public sector schools can meaningfully be raised is by following a very simple technique id est allowing the annual accrual of increments to each teacher including head of school, subject to performance of each by evaluating the results they deliver – something to get attested by the children coming out of these schools to successfully get admissions in higher institutions of learning. Those supervising them in the administration in hierarchical order equally need be made answerable in the same vein, in the course of meting out such a dispensation across the board to all concerned. All promotions must similarly be made conditional to the overall performance. Yet another imperative is short, that it must be made binding on and compulsory for all teachers, heads of institutions, the officers of educations department and the bureaucracy at large, to get their children admitted to the public sector institutions if at all improvement in quality is to be made. This may invariably be made applicable to the politicians as well. Once this is done, they will devote all their energies to enhance quality of education in the public sector schools and institutions. The sooner it is done, the better. This is in seeing that mere rhetoric is not in way to bring about any positive societal transformation until the above crucial steps are taken in this particular context.
Mere pumping of funds or, to put it, allocation of colossal amounts for a quantitative increase without resorting to strategies aimed raising quality education targeting the poorest, could be but an exercise in futility. Just have a look at the model introduced by the federal education directorate, Islamabad. They have very successfully introduced model schools and colleges system in the federal capital which offers education getting reckoned with as second to none. Admission to them has been an onerous task obviously because of growing demand as a consequence of quality they deliver. They have put in place magnificent building buildings for each institution there. The same model needs be replicated in toto, here else the current system in G-B could be a simple wastage of time and as well as money insofar as ushering in a positive transformation is concerned. Yet another point to ponder is inter alia, that in the current model, education department of G-B seems simply aiming a rise in terms of at enrollments in a blatant and indiscriminate manner, says a veteran teacher of public sector school. To him, the directive from the high-ups directing the schools administrations to entertain admissions regardless of age becomes a flawed strategy simply aimed at enhancement of enrollments. Giving admissions to all quite untrammeled could be a correct prognosis but nonetheless, factors like age etc. need be taken into account in the matter of classification. For instance, it is by no means proper to retain a 14 year old in the class-1 to study together with those who are far below his age, too young children, to avoid complications. What prudence demands instead, is that a categorization be made in keeping with the age factor, in order to keep those of the same age in a class perennially he went on to say.
For being able to ascertain the cause of dismal failure of the public sector schools as unfolded by the ‘post’ on social media under reference, the first thing that could become attributable is either shortage of teachers fitting the job at a particular school or else a lackadaisical approach toward management compounded by wrong policies of transfer and posting obviously by an misuse of official authority. All these factors virtually lead to an improper manning at each school in the public sector and the poor performance. The failure to evolve any judicious policy aimed at minute evaluation of the performance of each teacher in juxtaposition to the hefty sums they receive in pay has led to these scary times and the dismal educational landscape else it was bound to soar to the sublime heights. Instead, public sector school education has sadly sunken deep into the slough of filth being there no sublime moments in the regional education in public sector schools because of inherent bottlenecks resulting from imprudent strategies. From such an attitude emanated those many baneful tendencies which marred and wrecked the public sector schools system here.
It is pointed out that in almost all primary schools across the region; only one teacher is said to be assigned the arduous job of teaching as well as administering singlehandedly. His duties range from management/administration to covering six scheduled classes – an onerous task indeed, for only one teacher to handle. It often referred to the standing expert opinion of leading educationists that primary education attaches utmost significance and hence plays the fundamental role as of cornerstone up the ladder in educational system. To them, primary education forms the bedrock in teaching mechanism as this preliminary learning stage supposedly opens up vistas, inspires and primes the students. Given this, laying a rickety foundation or to put it, an inefficacious base with the semblance of education of the sort referred to before, is always doomed to fail insofar as meeting the present day needs in a fast changing world is concerned.
To be continued……
The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor, blogger. He can be reached at email@example.com