MUZAFFARABAD: The government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) has decided to recruit school teachers through an independent third party organisation, National Testing Service (NTS), aimed to ensure merit in recruitment and raise the standard of education in the territory.

“The decision has been taken to avoid political influence in teachers’ appointments, due to which the educational standards in the region have fallen. It will also ensure provision of jobs to the qualified and competent youth,” Minister of Education Barrister Iftikhar Gilani said on Sunday.

While talking to APP, the Minister said no appointments should be made by the departmental selection committees or any officer of the department in any manner. Anyone found guilty would be strictly punished. He showed by example when he suspended an education officer and cancelled the appointments she had made.

He said that literacy in AJK, which is higher than the provinces and other areas of Pakistan, was fast deteriorating due to political appointments in the department and that his government was committed to rectify this.

“Our government will make good of the promise it made to the people during electioneering, by restoring merit and good governance,” Gilani said.

Qualification requirements for teachers have also been raised from matriculation to BA or B.Ed. for Primary teachers and to F.A, M.A, or B.Ed for junior teachers. More than 500 schools in the territory however, have no buildings after the 2005 earthquake.

The Minister said the government was making efforts to construct buildings for these schools, but was facing resource constraints. He said that the Education Ministry had signed an agreement with Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to provide soft loans for the construction of these schools.

The Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority (ERRA) have also been trying to construct buildings for 300 schools. The work however remains incomplete even after a decade due to funding constraints and other reasons. The children still study under the open sky.