By: Azeem Samar
Karachi: The Sindh Education & Literacy Department is likely to resume disbursing annual stipend for every girl student enrolled in the middle and high school classes of government schools from next month to encourage female enrolment in the province.
Talking to the media at his office on Thursday, Senior Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said the revival of stipend for girl students was one of the steps being taken by the government for achieving the Millennium Development Goal of ‘Education For All’, which had to be secured by 2017.
He said that in the past similar projects of disbursing stipends for female students in the province had to be discontinued because of complaints of corruption and mismanagement.
Every girl student in the remote areas of the province will be entitled to an annual stipend of Rs3,500 while Rs2,500 will be disbursed to female students of relatively settled areas, he added.
The minister said that for ensuring transparency in the programme, stipend cheques would be delivered to government schools through a courier service and efforts would be made for the cheques to be directly deposited in the bank accounts of the students’ parents.
Students of classes six to 10 will be eligible for the stipend and its disbursal would start in May, with the commencement of the new academic year, he added.
Khuhro said the education department had envisaged a plan for involving the community for reviving non-functional government schools.
Under this plan, community-based sponsors of such schools will be given Rs250 to Rs350 per student every month to meet the expenses of salaries of teachers hired from the community, while it will also be ensured that students enrolled in such schools are given free education, he added.
He said the plan to revive non-functional schools would be carried out along the lines of a similar programme by the Sindh Education Foundation, which had been managing around 1,500 community-based schools through provision of funding.
The government has been facing the daunting challenge of reviving 3,000 to 4,000 non-functional schools in the province, for which the community’s participation has become mandatory, he added.
The minister said another plan was being implemented under which the afternoon shift of teaching staff would be introduced in government schools imparting education in the morning shift so that children from the lower-income stratum could be given the opportunity to avail free education.
Khuhro said free distribution of around five million textbooks among students of classes five to 10 of government schools in the province commenced on April 7.
He said that as the curricula of classes one to four of government schools were being revised, free distribution of textbooks to these classes would commence by the end of April.
The principal of each of the 49,000 government schools has been made responsible for fair and transparent distribution of these free textbooks and for this purpose the principals have to film the ceremony in which they distribute the textbooks, following which they have to provide the senior education authorities with the compact disc containing the recording of the ceremony, he added.
The minister said he had been working on another plan to revive pre-primary classes in selected government primary schools and initially 8,000 units of pre-primary classes would be added to the existing schools.
Disciplinary action is being initiated against teachers of government schools and colleges for being absent from their duties and for being involved in other irregularities, and up to 500 teachers have initially been issued show-cause notices for failing to report for work, he added.
Khuhro said around 20,000 teachers were being appointed for government schools under different cadres for which funding was provided by the World Bank, while for the sake of merit only those candidates would be considered for selection who had passed the mandatory examination of the National Testing Service. Female candidates under this selection programme will be given special incentives for their selection as government schoolteachers, he added.
The minister said an endowment fund of Rs2 billion was available to the government, as around Rs200 million generated in bank interest annually through the fund was used for providing financial support to students from the lower-income group.
Last year 350 students were given the opportunity to pursue higher education in public universities while 150 students were provided with the prospect of acquiring higher education at private universities on the need-cum-merit basis, he added.
A recent meeting of the board of governors of the endowment fund had decided that the programme of financial support for higher education would be promoted in such a manner that the deserving students from the lesser privileged areas of every district of the province could avail this opportunity.