Monday, July 30, 2018

Candidates commit to a charter of demands to lead quality-focused education reform in Lahore

Candidates commit to a charter of demands to lead quality-focused education reform in Lahore
Lahore: With a few days left to the General Elections, several contesting candidates from major political parties gathered to speak at a multi-party convention to discuss the state of education in District Lahore, and commit to citizen-led charter of demands to ensure quality education across the government-run schools.
The convention was organized by Alif Ailaan and Ilm Dost, in collaboration with Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi, Shaur Welfare and Kafka Welfare Organization.
Politicians joining to speak at the event included Senator Dr Musadik Malik and Shaista Malik from PMLN, Zulfiqar Ali Badr, Iftikhar Ahmed and Asim Bhatti from PPP, Ameer Bahadur Khan Hoti (ANP), Zubair Niazi and Dr Nausheen Hamid from PTI, Zaeem Qadri (IND), Hafiz Salman, Jibran Butt, Zikr Ullah Mujahid and Ameer-ul-Azeem from Jamaat-e-Islami, Zeba Ahsan from PMLQ.
Analysis of the educational landscape in Lahore revealed that availability of schools beyond primary access and poor quality education are the two most important factors contributing to failing education standards in Lahore that set the tone for candidates’ plans to reform schools in their constituencies.
While speaking at the session, Dr Musadik Malik promised to introduce broad-based learning to equip children with knowledge and tools of all disciplines at school-level. He also stated that PMLN would now focus on improving quality as during the past 5 years their focus had remained on access given the sheer number of children out of school in Punjab. Dr Nausheen Hamid of PTI will have her party prioritise science education, train science teachers and upgrade science curriculum. She talked about the latest PTI manifesto that focuses exclusively on STEM education. Most of the candidates spoke of increasing budget allocation towards education and strict regulation and monitoring of both private and public schools. Pak Sarzameen Party’s representative promised to provide free education from Grade 1 till Matriculation.
The session also offered an opportunity for voters to ask their candidates of their plans to improve schools upfront. One speaker from the audience questioned the candidates over their party’s efforts to provide facilities for children with disabilities in schools. Another speaker suggested party reps to focus more on industry-academia linkages with schools and universities to improve quality of learning and increase job opportunities upon graduation.
As per Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017, released by Alif Ailaan, Lahore ranks 32nd nationally and 19th provincially on Education Score (that measures learning, retention and gender parity) with the learning score as low as 53.93.
Based on the learning assessment conducted by Punjab Examination Commission, Lahore ranks the lowest in learning outcomes in subjects of English, Math and Science. For both Classes 5 and 8, students have scored less than 50% in these foundational subjects. This can be attributed to a lack of functional science labs in 155 high and higher secondary schools.
Moreover, out of 1202 total public schools in the district, there are only 234 middle schools against 610 primary schools that make up half of all public schools in Lahore. Lack of schools beyond primary levels explains why there is a steep drop in the enrolment rates as we move up the higher classes and shift of students to private schools, especially from Class 10 (46,468) to Class 11 (3161). Less than 1 out of 5 schools in Lahore district are public.
A comparison of private and public schools also shows more private schools at every level, which means parents, have to pay more to private schools for their children’s education throughout.
For Lahore’s future elected representatives, providing affordable quality education through government schools in addition to enrolling all 290,000 out-of-school children in Lahore is the biggest challenge awaiting them.
All participants agreed to commit to a Charter of Demands that was based on the demands of parents, teachers and community members in Lahore to have the schools and quality of education improved in their respective constituencies in the coming months.
The demands are as following:
1.     Upgradation of schools to primary to middle, from middle to high, from high to high-secondary schools.
2.     Construction of science and computer labs for modern and quality instruction to students
3.     Complete facilities in form of labs and equipment to be provided to schools to help students learn the latest techniques in biology, chemistry and physics
4.     Construction of more government schools at every level and improvement in their quality so parents can provide their children with affordable, quality education.
5.     Appointment of teachers for science and computers, and establishment of libraries
6.     Training of teachers so they are able to teach according to modern learning practices
7.     Introduction of biometric system to ensure regular attendance of teachers
8.     Popularization of healthy co-curricular activities in schools
9.     Increase in education budget and school principals to be trained for effective utilization of the allocated school budgets.

1.  Introduction of scholarship schemes for needy students

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Session on Tax Justice by Kafka and Indus Consortium

Kafka Welfare Organization and Tax Justice Coalition jointly organized district public forum in Lahore. The purpose of the forum was to aware people on tax issues and present public charter of demand for elections 2018 to parliamentarians and politicians for its inclusion in party manifestos. MPA Dr. Nausheen Hamid from PTI, Barrister Amir from PPP, philanthropist and columnist Salman Abid and Ex MPA Samia Amjad participated in the forum as guest speakers. On this occasion, the participants said tax revenue should be, spend on welfare of people living under poverty line so that they can live a better life. Political representatives agreed to bring public charter of demand on their party’s platform for more discussion.

Speakers said the curb concentration of wealth, which is largely stemming from progressive taxation; Pakistan tax to GDP ratio 13.1% one of the lowest in the world with 91% of tax revenue collected through indirect (65%) advance and other presumptive (26%) taxes in Pakistan and this is due to the exemptions from income, sales tax and customs duties granted to the rich and powerful of the country.
This highly unjust tax system has shifted the tax burden from income earners to citizen violating the central tenet of an equitable taxation.

Further Barrister Amir said one of the key reason of poverty in Pakistan is the unequal distribution of wealth, which leads to inequalities. All politicians agreed to highlight tax justice issues for further discussion in their party’s general meetings.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Elimination of violence against women

It is a surprising moment and a point to ponder on for all of the worlds, which might have garnered many consumers by manufacturing the best designer outfits for women; many companies have objectified and symbolized women regarding sexual prominence. However, despite being in the 21st century, it is unfortunate to say that the world is still not a safe place for a woman. Despite there being laws such as the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) in the United States and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, women are still abused,  assaulted and harassed psychologically,  physically and sexually, which have extremely traumatizing effects on the lives of the women.
According to the facts and figures, an estimated 35 percent of women worldwide experience physical and sexual violence at some point in their lives. However,  some national studies show that up to 70 percent of women experience physical and sexual violence by their family members or partners also known as domestic violence that also includes verbal abuse which can come in the form of bullying,  domestic abuse or abusive dialogue in general,  which is mainly devastating to young girls. The latter is more threatening as most of it goes unreported because the women are expected to keep quiet by their families or are silenced by their partners so to protect and preserve the family honour. Such kind of behaviour creates a muffling and suffocating environment for a woman already going through mental agony. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common and most prevalent traits among the women who face any form of violence in their lives. The psychological disorders have been more long-lasting effects.
Sexual harassment is a widespread form of violence and one that is often ignored and brushed aside often. Many young girls and women face sexual harassment on public spots, public transportations, workplaces, educational institutions, etc. Sexual harassment is often characterized by inappropriate touching in the fore-mentioned areas, but it also includes stalking, following, passing explicit remarks and gestures. Cyber-bullying or harassment is another form of violence, which has increased, with the high use of social media.  Many young girls are faced with threats from abusers who claim to have their data, sending them sexually explicit emails and messages.

In many parts of the world, early or child marriage is still a dominant issue, which has numerous consequences such as social isolation, and possible pregnancy and birth complications.  Also, first marriage limits the girl's activities, opportunities, educational learning and puts her at a greater risk of domestic violence. Amidst such issues and complications, laws do exist that if properly implemented can guarantee and assure the safety of a woman. The questions arise that why women do not report violence cases. Is it because they are afraid of their family or partner or the abuser?  Is it life threatening for them to expose the abuser?  Will it cause them disgrace in the society? For that purpose, we need to find the answers to these questions and eventually find relevant solutions to help control the issue.  We need to encourage and motivate the women to speak out against the different forms of violence. Instead of telling a woman to keep quiet and suppress her voice, we need to stop the abusers and assaulters who control a woman's very existence by suffocating her through emotional distress.

By Sarah Baloch