By: WASEEM ASHRAF BUTT
GUJRAT: Just when the Punjab government launched its enrolment campaign in schools, parents in four major villages of the district have stopped their daughters from going to schools against the government’s decision of merging primary schools of boys and girls.
Girl students of classes 4 and 5 have been forbidden by their parents from attending schools following a unanimous decision by the village council (panchayat) to resist co-education even at the primary level.
In Union Council Machiwal’s Chokar Khurd village, the government had merged boys and girls primary schools. Students of nursery to class three in these schools had been merged into the girls primary school building, while boys and girls of classes 4 and 5 had been merged into the boys school.
Following the merger decision, a meeting of village elders was called where it was decided that parents would not send their daughters studying in classes 4 and 5 to a co-education school. The decision was announced in mosques of the village and all parents had been abiding by the decision for last two weeks.
A resident of the village whose daughter was a class 4 student told Dawn no girls were attending school and the matter had been reported to the district administration. He said an overwhelming majority of the villagers was religious and they did not accept co-education system in schools even at junior level.
He said concerns of the villagers had been conveyed to the officials concerned of the education department and until the decision by the government was revoked, parents would not send their daughters to school. He said the villagers were not against girls getting education but co-education was not acceptable to them.
The same issue had been reported to the district administration from villages in Tanda, Kakrali and Sara-i-Alamgir where parents were not sending their daughters studying in classes 4 and 5 to schools due to the merger.
Gujrat District Coordination Officer Asif Bilal Lodhi confirmed the reports and said he had already informed the competent authority of the province through a letter and was waiting for a response.
He said if the district administration came up with a local arrangement by resuming the previous system of separate schools for boys and girls it would be a violation of the government policy.
The DCO said the merger had also been done in the tribal belt of Punjab in Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur, so people should understand the government’s constraints that led to such a decision.
When asked if barring girls could have a negative impact on the government’s ongoing drive to enrol children into schools, the DCO said the campaign had so far been successful and according to set targets in the district.