Sindh’s adopt-a-school policy has no far reaching impact

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Karachi

After a not-for-profit organisation adopted the Government Girls Secondary School Intelligence in Sultanabad, its students began to dream big: of flying airplanes, becoming lawyers and working as journalists. To put it in the words of one young student: “I want a degree in law so that I can fight for my rights. Meanwhile, I will write for newspapers.”

These ambitions had been missing in the largely Pakhtun student body that came from conservative backgrounds. But two years after the adoption, it was not just the building structure that improved but also the attitude of the students, who decided that education was their right and the only way out.

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The latest fad in education is public-private partnership. If private individuals step up to assist the government in improving education, the country will quickly achieve its Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education by the year 2015.

Sounds good. But here’s an unsettling fact: 16 years after the Sindh Education Department introduced its adopt-a-school policy – which encouraged the private sector to parent orphaned public schools – a meagre 280 of the 47,557 public schools in the province have been adopted.

That accounts for less than 0.6 percent – a sorry figure in a province where every seventh school is non-functional.

Numbers say a lot. And in this case it is clear that the adopt-a-school policy has had no far-reaching impacts: either it is not allowing private individuals to do much, or it is a partnership where the government refuses to contribute.

“Individuals or organisations that adopt schools are caregivers for the schools. They do not own it but can take steps to improve the quality of education,” said Maria Ijaz of the Sindh Education Foundation, the government body that deals with all school adoptions in the province.

“The adopters can hire their own teachers. But they cannot fire existing teachers. They have to generate their own funds, as the government does not provide them with any monetary help.”

So is this a partnership where the adopters have to suffer? Or is this an attempt by the state to abdicate its responsibility and dump it on the private sector?

Is it a gesture through which the government makes its clear that it cannot do anything about the 29 percent out-of-school children in Sindh?

Mosharraf Zaidi, director of education advocacy programme Alif Ailaan, criticised public-private partnership in education.

“It is complete abdication of responsibility by the state. You cannot expect the private sector, whose main aim is to earn profit, to work for the welfare of the people.”

He has a point. No matter how hard the private sector tries to provide education to children who cannot afford to pay for it, its efforts will always be a drop in the ocean.

Take for example The Citizens Foundation (TCF), undoubtedly the best model Pakistan has had in the not-for-profit sector. It took them 18 years to establish 1,000 schools all over the country.

“But no matter how hard we try, we cannot replace the government. We don’t have the kind of resources the government has. At best we can provide the government with a successful model it can follow,” Ahsan Saleem, one of the TCF founders, had said at an education conference held in Islamabad.

Then there is Sabina Khatri, known for the Kiran School in Lyari, who has now adopted a government school in Ibrahim Hyderi, a fishing village in the outskirts of Karachi.

“The policy makes it clear that the adopter cannot fire a government schoolteacher. So, even if the teacher is not performing or showing the will to improve, the adopter cannot fire him. I can hire another teacher against him, paying him from my own pocket. But what happens to the public money that is being wasted on idle government teachers?” she said.

“The private teacher I hire will listen to me because I pay her salary. The government teacher does not have a reason to listen to me, as I am not responsible for her appraisal.”

Sadiqa Salahuddin, president of the Indus Resource Centre and member of the committee that oversees adoption of schools, said: “Every year we receive a long list of willing adopters and we allow only a few to adopt. Adoption has its problems: the government cannot allow too many schools to be adopted because then it will also have to screen all of those schools. At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the state and not private individuals to educate citizens.”

For the time being, students at the Government Girls Secondary School Intelligence in Sultanabad can dream big. But until the state learns from successful adoptions – such as the one of their school – and replicates them on a massive level, their children and grandchildren may not be as lucky.

originally published here

 

Thar– a bureaucratic failure

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THAR: The sunflower plantation disappears. It is replaced by thorn bushes and starved camels. Women, children and men dot the roads with their cattle as they walk to safer places in search of food, water and employment. The change in landscape is stark — lack of water has shriveled everything at Tharparkar.

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This is not the first time a drought has occurred. As recent as in 2007 another drought hit the only fertile desert of the world. “There was another in 2005, 2004, 2001, 1999, 1996, 1995, 1987, 1988, 1985, 1979 and 1968. But this time the situation is much worse,” said Pardeep Kalani, a social activist in the area.

 

The Mitti Civil Hospital, the only hospital in the entire district, is restive today. The army is here guarding the run down white building. Politicians arrive in Land Cruisers followed by police mobiles — their sirens blare rudely on the cobbled streets pushing pedestrians to the roadside — they bring with them relief goods and a barrage of reporters — who take pictures as they distribute food to their voters who they had forgotten till the loss of lives made headlines.

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One hundred twenty five people died, seven in March. At the intensive care unit malnourished babies lie in beds. Some are kept inside incubators which locals call ‘sheeshay ka dabba’. Their mothers sit at their sides. They look wasted. “Malnourished mothers give birth to malnourished babies and so the cycle continues,” explains a doctor.

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The former head of the hospital was sacked last week. A new one arrived. “We need incubators, medicines and a team of qualified doctors,” he states. There is something wrong with the diagnosis patients are receiving. While Kuldip Bachu, 25, complains of pain in her joints, breathing difficulty and severe headache, the doctors told her it is just a stomach-ache. “We are falling sick because of the water we drink,” she says.

When the drought comes their only source of water dries up. “Water in the wells goes down to a hundred feet. We tie pillows to our buckets and pull out water. But the water we get is salty,” said Kavita, a local.

It is mainly small-scale farmers who are dying of the drought. They live in thatched huts and grow crops for a living. The desert becomes green when it rains. But lack of water has pushed it into its present state.

When the British ruled Tharparkar they had set certain rules. If by August 15 every year there was no rain, emergency was to be declared in the region. Thereby efforts to relocate families and release food stocks were to be made.

The Sindh government was following the 300-year old policy — only with much less efficiency. There was moderate rainfall in September and so the government pushed the announcement to much later.

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The godown at Mithi is stocked with 11,000, sacks of wheat. But it was not until Saturday that food was released. By then scores of lives had been lost. “We work for the food department. Our duty is to stock goods. We cannot release anything till the revenue department tells us to,” says the in-charge as he directs workers to load a truck, which has just arrived.

Top PPP leadership gathered at Thar in the last few days. They included Bilawal Bhutto, Qaim Ali Shah, Sharmila Farooqui and Rubina Qaimkhani. As part of long term strategy to empower the forgotten desert it was decided that every week a tanker will bring water to the drought affected areas.

But what about a permanent solution? “No pipeline for water can be laid in these areas. The population is scattered in small pockets every where,” said a spokesperson for social development minister Rubina Qaimkhani.

The National Disaster Management Authority seems cold. “The media is flaring up the numbers. It is an annual phenomenon. Twenty-one babies died. We have announced a Rs77crore food package,” said a statement released.

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As the car prepares to leave for Karachi, a group of ten-year old boys see the PPP flag on the Land Cruiser leading the caravan. “Jiyay Bhutto,” they roar, oblivious of how their leaders have failed them again.

Tharparkar does not need aid in the form of wheat or water. It needs a socio-economic overhaul — education, employment, empowerment and awareness to choose better leaders. As Amartya Sen, nobel laureate puts it— “no famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.”

 originally published here