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Doors of education shutting on girls in Hassanabdal

TAXILA, Dec 5: Fate of scores of female students seeking knowledge in three different Govt Primary Schools located in various rural areas of Hassanabdal tehsil hangs in balance as schools in which they are studying are on the verge of closure due to non-availability of teachers in these schools since long.

During a survey conducted by Dawn of the state of primary schools of tehsil Hassanabdal, it was revealed that fate of 33 students of Govt Primary School Gar Dakhli Kohlia, 40 students of Govt Primary School Mohri and over 40 students of Govt Primary School Kawan was uncertain as these schools sans teachers and either these students have to visit nearby boys schools or some teachers of other schools come there on temporary basis to deliver lessons to six different classes on the same day and to save the school from turning into a ghost school.

Source: DAWN

It has been leant that there had not been any teacher in Govt Primary School Gar Dakhli Kohlia for the last one and a half years as no teacher was posted there after retirement of the teachers who used to serve there. So, the six classes of the school were shifted to nearby boys’ school to continue the academic session of the students. But the situation kept deteriorating for the boy students too as one teacher was now imparting education to 12 different classes of the boys and girls simultaneously. As the schools are located in rural areas which are dominated by the religious-minded people, the parents were forced to withdraw their girls from the school as they were not in favour of the co-education which resulted in fast drop-out rate of the female students and numerous students had to say farewell to their studies. They are now helping other female members of their families in domestic work.

Fatima Bibi, formerly a grade-4 student of the said school told Dawn that she was not allowed to attend the school after his school was merged with Boys school as her father was in not in favour of co-education. She said that she belonged to poor class of society and his parents were unable to pay fee at the private school, so she had no option but to help her mother in house-hold work.

Nasreen Bibi, another grade-3 student of the same school said that it was impossible for the single teacher to impart education to different boys and girls sections which had badly affected their studies. She said that her father told her to leave the school after passing annual examination if no female teacher was posted there and she had to quit as directed.

Ghulam Sarwar, an elder of the area said that the people of the area belonged to less-privileged class and were mostly farmers.

He said that there was no concept of the co-education in the area as they were religious-minded people. So they did not allow their girls to attend the school along with the boys when they became adult enough. He said that on the other hand due to limited financial resources, they were unable to impart education to their girls in private school so they were left with no option except to drop their girls from the school and keep them at home. He said that if the government had been serious in imparting primary education especially to the girls, it should have appointed a permanent teacher to run the independent girl section to eliminate illiteracy in the area.

The plight of over 40-girl students of Govt Primary School Mohri and Kawan was more deplorable. As these schools are located in remote and far-flung area, no teacher was ready to offer her duties there. Teachers of these schools are either retired or have got them posted to the ‘nearest’ place of duty from their residence. There is no teacher presently posted there and teachers from nearby areas are sent to school turn-wise basis to run the school.

“The school is located in remote and far flung area where no public transport is available. So I have to walk on foot or hire a car to reach the place of duty which is not possible for a female to do alone each day,” said a teacher who wished not to be named.

She said that due to limited pay it was not possible for a teacher to hire a taxi to reach the school and it was equally impossible for a woman to cover such long distance alone on foot. Therefore no teacher was willing to perform duty at these schools, she added.

Salma Bano, a student at Govt Primary School Mohri said that often a teacher visited the school and asked them to either stay
at home or do self study. She said that there was no permanent teacher and every week teacher was changed which resulted in the change of teaching method that played havoc with their studies. She said that if the school was closed, they would be deprived of education.

When contacted, Deputy District Officer Education (Female) Hassanabdal Uzma Naoman confirmed the state of affairs in these schools of the area. She said that these schools were run under temporary arrangements as they were located in remote and “hard” areas where mostly no public transport was available. She said that due to non-availability of public transport, no female teacher was willing to serve in these areas. She said there was dearth of teachers in the area as the Punjab government has imposed a ban on new recruitments and as soon as the department gets new staff the required teaching staff would be posted there accordingly.

Keeping in view the sorry state of affairs the various girls’ primary schools portray, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif’s desire to achieve cent per cent enrolment of all children of school-going age and their retention in schools across the province seems a distant dream in Hassanabdal at least. The Millennium Development Goals’ second target (achieve universal primary education) also requires that every child in the province should be enrolled in schools by 2015. It may be mentioned here
that in Pakistan, free education up to elementary level is the state’s responsibility according to the article 2-AB of the Constitution. But unfortunately it has never been a top national priority.