Recently, members of the Punjab Assembly strongly criticised the provincial government’s policy under which educational institutions will be handed over to non-government organisations; they called for the accountability of NGOs.
The provincial assembly members said that ‘the NGOs are taking over costly government school buildings on the pretext of improving education. They use school buildings for commercial purposes, and harass the regular staff and try to get them transferred. How does the government intend to retake control of such schools?’
Punjab’s education minister read out the department’s reply to the question and said ‘the reports were not true, as the NGOs only had the authority to file an application against teachers. Nobody has complained that these NGOs are using school buildings for commercial purposes’.
Ministers usually say such things to push things under the proverbial carpet of bureaucracy.
A member of the assembly asked for the formation of a House Committee to look into the affairs of the NGOs managing government schools. She also questioned ‘why government schools were being handed over to the NGOs when an education department existed.’
An opposition MPA said she had ‘proof of the NGOs’ misappropriation of funds, as they did not allow public representatives to check their records. They even stop public representatives from entering schools.’
An MPA said ‘nobody among the officials was monitoring what NGOs were doing with schools handed over to them. Under what law are the schools being handed over to the NGOs, and how many schools have been handed over to the NGOs? If NGOs are interested in improving the education standards, why are they not taking over schools in remote areas and are instead focussing on institutions in Lahore?’
A minister said that ‘the NGOs are using school reforms as a cover to seize government school buildings. In my own village, an NGO is also involved in the same exercise by obtaining an order to take over the Rs 250 million building.’
The education minister said ‘out of the 1,164 schools, 340 in Lahore had been handed over to the NGOs. The previous regime started the practice of handing over government schools to the NGOs under the Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2001. The current government was handing over only those schools to the NGOs that lacked basic facilities.’
The speaker of the House, however, referred the matter to the House committee on education.
With so many questions asked, one expects satisfactory answers. When the government wishes that controversial matters be forgotten, it efficiently forms committees whose enquiry reports are seldom made public, and the result is that we seldom learn from our mistakes.
Accountability is a good thing if it starts with the corrupt politicians, the feudal landowners, the coup-creators and traitors amidst us. In such troubled times, foreign sponsored non-government organizations with their deep pockets need to be carefully monitored and held accountable. Practically all educated men and women fall for the traps laid by foreign agencies who wish to further educate and reform us. We need good individuals to come forward to reform the education system in Pakistan, retain talent through carefully created opportunities, and move up the ladder of worldly success. Only with the correct balance between here and the hereafter, can Pakistan move forward.
Last November I met with a soft-spoken Sikh from California, Pritpal Singh, who said that plans were underway to establish the Guru Nanak University near Lahore. When questioned why Indian Sikhs chose Pakistan, he admitted that the Sikhs belonged more to this land than they did to any other. He was happy to see the government of Pakistan allocate for the establishment of the Guru Nanak University many acres of land out of the evacuee trust property. Pritpal Singh’s visiting card showed that he was the coordinator for the entire project, which had a board of governors with important men in the government holding key positions. Here was a project that combined the vision of a few zealous Sikhs and the support lent by the government.
Of course, the job of all government functionaries and public servants is to ensure that they do not follow destructive foreign agendas, no matter how many Dollars flow into such projects or into their own. How would America react if Muslims donated directly or through their NGOs, large sums of money to prestigious universities to have their syllabus and other ideals changed? But we do not need to do that, just as Muslims achieved long ago in Spain, we need to set up our own centres of learning that allow students to become not just wage-earners but rather adults who see the world as one family which God wants us to manage efficiently and with responsibility.
Too much change does not change anything. Sometimes, the more things change the more they remain the same. Our elitist educational institutions have now relegated themselves to the status of being expensive syllabus finishers, enrollers of brilliant children who score multiple straight A’s in Cambridge examinations, exporters of brain power to the west, and stone walls of opposition to whatever good remains in eastern cultures and religions. It is this last bit that I wish to see changed within my lifetime.