At the behest of local parliamentarians, the Punjab government has built 14 new colleges in the Chakwal district over the last decade. Of these institutions, 11 are for women and three for men – altogether, they cost over Rs1.7 billion.
Although the buildings are impressive to look at, the institutions do not have regular teachers or adequate facilities for their students. The district’s remaining nine colleges are in similar situations – not a single college in the district has well-equipped libraries or laboratories.
Documents obtained by Dawn show an abysmal state of affairs at the district’s 23 public sector colleges, where 11,300 students are enrolled.
Of the 549 sanctioned seats for faculty at the colleges, 354 are vacant, with some colleges lacking 70.8pc to 87pc and 90pc of staff.
In one instance – at the Government Degree College for Women in Lawa Town where 82 students are enrolled – the college does not have a principal or a single lecturer.
At the Government Postgraduate College Chakwal, the largest and oldest college of the district, 42 out of 96 sanctioned faculty posts are vacant, leaving 54 teachers for 2,500 students.
There are 504 students enrolled in the college’s computer science department, where there is only one teacher. The sanctioned post for Arabic has been vacant for years, and the college does not offer admissions in education, mass communications, international relations and other programmes due to a shortage of teachers.
Meanwhile at the Government Degree College for Women Chakwal – the only degree college for women in the city – nine out of 36 sanctioned seats are vacant, leaving 27 teachers for 2,400 students.
The college also needs another block, a faculty member said, as well as more sanctioned posts and an auditorium to meet the rising number of students.
Many of these colleges were built without proper planning or feasibility studies. According to a current government policy, a college can be built every 20 kilometres in a populated area, after a feasibility study.
But in Talagang, four women’s colleges have been built within a few kilometres of each other.
The college in Tamman is 7km from the one in Multan Khurd, which s a few kilometres from the colleges in Tarhada and Dhurmal. As a result, the government turned the girls’ college in Tarhada into a boys’ college, while the other colleges also lack teachers and facilities.
The Government Degree College for Boys in Choa Saidan Shah has also been built 6km away from the historic Government Sir Syed Inter College in Katas, in the centre of the Choa Saidan Shah tehsil.
After the new college opened, there are only 56 students enrolled at the Katas college, while nine out of its 12 sanctioned posts are vacant. There are 203 students at the new Choa Saidan Shah college, where 12 out of 17 sanctioned posts are vacant.
“The construction of new educational institutions is a politically oriented move by politicians which is meant to bring them fame. Whether these institutions fail or succeed does not matter to them,” Shahid Azad, district president of the Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association, said.
He said that when feasibility reports are made for new colleges, the opinions of relevant officials are ignored.
“No educationist is involved to rationalise the concept, and higher-ups in the education department, despite their reservations, succumb to the approval pressure. These ill-planned institutions falter in their functioning, and find no guardians to rescue them from administrative and academic issues. They remain neglected, orphaned, afterwards.”
Of the 549 sanctioned seats for faculty at the colleges, 354 are vacant, with some colleges lacking 70.8pc to 87pc and 90pc of staff
The Punjab government has also found a way to overcome the shortage of teachers without recruiting them through the procedure set out under the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC).
Under this temporary method, teaching interns are hired for nine months – the length of the academic year, as educational institutions are closed for three months in the summer – at the start of the academic year and paid Rs30,000 per month.
This year, however, the government did not approve the recruitment of teaching interns even though the academic year commenced on Sept 1.
According to an official, it appears as if “the government is waiting for new lecturers who are about to be selected within the next few days by the PPSC”.
Educationists are of the opinion that recruiting teaching interns is not a solution.
“The government should not only increase the sanctioned seats at old colleges, as these seats were sanctioned decades ago, but it should also fill the vacant posts on a regular basis through the PPSC,” a serving professor said.
When contacted, PML-N MPA Mehwish Sultana, who belongs to Chakwal and is currently serving as the parliamentary secretary for higher education, said the shortage of lecturers in Chakwal would be resolved soon.
“I have discussed this issue with the chief minister, and proposed that the recruitment of lecturers may be carried out on the basis of district, as the School Education Department does through the PPSC. The chief minister appreciated my proposal, and now work on this idea is ongoing,” she told Dawn.
She said that if lecturers are recruited on a provincial basis, they do not stay at colleges in remote towns since most of them are from other districts.
“1,400 lecturers are being recruited through the PPSC. However, the summary was sent to recruit 2,800 lecturers, but for some reason only 1,400 were advertised,” she said, adding that the higher education department had assured her that Chakwal district would be prioritised while appointing new lecturers.
Mohammad Sohail, the director of the PPSC’s lecturers and assistant professors wing, told Dawn the commission only advertises posts sent by the concerned departments. He added: “The recruitment of lecturers and assistant professors is in its final stage. The final results will be announced within the next few days.”
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2017
Courtesy : DAWN