Chitral: Several politicians from various political parties gathered on Saturday at a political convention to discuss the failing state of education in District Chitral, analyze the five-year education plans of contesting candidates and probe reasonable solutions to ensure quality education across the government-run schools. The convention was organized by Alif Ailaan and attended by parents, youth activists and civil society members of Chitral.
Wazir Zada, Israr ud Din and Abdul Latif from Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf, Molana Abdul Akbar, Molana Ejaz ur Rehman and Molana Abdul Haq from Muttahida Maajlis e Amal, Molana Siraj ud Din from Rahe-Haq party, and two independent candidates namely Haji Abdur Rehman and Ameer ullah participated in the political convention on education.
The district is soon going to become a commerce zone in near future via Wahkan corridor that connects Pakistan with Central Asia. Chitral’s declining standards in education raise questions about whether Chitral’s schools are equipped with the right tools to provide students with the necessary skills they would need in the future to sustain and protect Chitral’s environment and economy.
Chitral is ranked 46th nationally on Education Score that measures retention, learning, and gender parity, as per Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017 released by Alif Ailaan. Analysis of the educational landscape in Chitral revealed that shortage of post-primary schools, unavailability of basic school infrastructure and facilities and quality of education are the three most important factors contributing to failing education standards in Chitral.
78% of all schools in Chitral district are the primary level which adversely impacts the number of students enrolled at higher levels. Due to the lesser number of schools, enrolment drops as students move up the higher classes especially for girls, leading to drop-outs after Class 5. Gender disparity is also evident by the fact that only 30% of all schools in Chitral are for girls, leaving little opportunities for girls to study.
These factors have negatively contributed to poor learning outcomes of students and quality of education. More than 80% of grade 5 students cannot read a story in Pashto, Urdu and English let alone solving simple division questions of grade 2 standard. Any improvement that is sought in the learning outcomes of children has to be backed by the hiring of subject specialist teachers immediately.
While speaking at the session, PTI candidates Wazir Zada, Israr ud Din and Abdul Lateef pledged to bring reforms in quality and learning outcomes of the students “by improving the syllabus based on international standards coupled with latest digital technology in classrooms”. Mr. Ameerullah focused on speeding up “teacher training and appointments of Subject Specialist teachers in the higher secondary schools”. MMA candidates Molana Ejaz ur Rehman and Molana Abdul Haq, said girls education would be their main priority in their upcoming term so that gender parity can be improved. Molana Sirajuddin pledged to focus on improving the primary level education, infrastructure, and quality if he wins the elections. Demands were also raised from the community members who want to see better opportunities for higher education in their area supported by scholarships. One community member pointed out the misallocation and underutilization of education budget and urged the candidates to make education their priority in the funds’ distribution when they come into power.
Towards the conclusion, all contesting candidates signed on a charter of demands for the constitutional provision of quality education for children of Chitral and promised to deliver on the charter if elected during upcoming elections. The charter is backed by a host of organizations, parents and community members in Chitral.