Education woes: Call for devolution of school affairs to communities

One of the issues facing the education sector in Pakistan is the dysfunctional school management bodies (SMB).

Comprising parents, local community members, teachers and philanthropists, the bodies oversee all administrative matters of schools including financial management and internal audit. Experts think SMBs is the solution to many issues confronting our education system.

The Free and Fair Education Bill of the Punjab government provides a section for the establishment of SMBs but the law does not give any detail on the composition and role of such a body.

Center for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI) Executive Director Amir Ejaz said the establishment of the SMBs is imperative for the betterment of the education system. He said the formation of SMBs should be the responsibility of local authorities, adding that members of civil society can also be engaged in the process.

The SMBs should have the mandate to oversee all administrative matters of the schools, including fundraising, he suggested.

“The government should train the bodies in school management, financial management, budget making, internal audit, dispute resolution and fund raising. The SMBs should be expected to make annual budget, recurrent budget as well as small development budget for the schools,” stated Ejaz.

He said that Farogh-e-Taleem Fund (FTF) had been a major contributor in resources for recurrent expenditure of the schools in Punjab. He said the FTF was a good idea and proved its success. “But the problem was that the funds were collected from the students, which is a violation of Article 25-A of the Constitution (free and compulsory education).”

The SMBs should mobilise parents and community to collect FTF with the help of school administration and staff so that the law cannot be violated, he said. “These steps are necessary to improve the condition of educational institutes and increase school enrollment,” he added.

CPDI Programme Manager Raja Shoeb Akbar said local governments should convince parents of out-of-school children to send their children to schools.

He said that the School Management Committees (SMC) working in Punjab have failed to perform as they are not directly linked with the local people. “People have no idea about these committees. There is a need to revive the concept of SMCs through proper legislation,” he said.

Executive District Officer Education Qazi Zahoor Ul Haq said that there were School Management Councils in the past and now SMCs are working throughout Punjab. He, however, said that SMCs are not functioning properly and need to be revived and streamlined.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2014.
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