CHITRAL-A daylong education convention was held at Government Postgraduate College of Management Sciences and Commerce Chitral under the auspices of AlifAilan.

The education convention was organized for nominated candidates of NA-1 and PK-1 to motivate and brief them for giving first priority to education if they elected in the upcoming election 2018. Several politicians from various parties gathered at the convention to discuss the failing state of education in Chitral, analyzed the five-year education plans of contesting candidates and probed reasonable solutions to ensure quality education across the government-run schools.

The convention was organized by AlifAilaan which was attended by parents, youth activists and civil society members of Chitral. Wazir Zada, Israruddin and Abdul Latif from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Maulana Ejazur Rehman and Maulana Abdul Haq from Muttahida Maajlis-e-Amal, Maulana Sirajuddin from Rah-e-Haq Party and two independent candidates - Haji Abdur Rehman and Ameerullah - participated in the political convention.

The district is soon going to become a commerce zone in near future via Wakhan corridor that connects Pakistan with Central Asia. Chitral's declining standards in education raise questions whether Chitral's schools are equipped with the right tools to provide students with the necessary skills they would need in the future to sustain and protect Chitral's environment and economy.

Chitral is ranked 46th nationally on education score that measures retention, learning and gender parity, as per Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017 released by AlifAilaan. Analysis of the educational landscape in Chitral revealed that shortage of post primary schools, unavailability of basic school infrastructure and facilities and quality of education are the three most important factors contributing to failing education standards in Chitral.

Around 78% of all schools in Chitral are primary level which adversely impact the number of students enrolled at higher levels. Due to lesser number of schools, enrolment drops as students move up the higher classes especially for girls, leading to drop-outs after Class 5. Gender disparity is also evident by the fact that only 30% of all schools in Chitral are for girls, leaving little opportunities for girls to study.

These factors have negatively contributed to poor learning outcomes of students and quality of education. More than 80% of grade 5 students cannot read a story in Pashto, Urdu and English let alone solving simple division questions of grade 2 standard. Any improvement that is sought in the learning outcomes of children has to be backed by hiring of subject specialist teachers immediately.

While speaking at the session, PTI candidates Wazir Zada, Israruddin and Abdul Lateef pledged to bring reforms in quality and learning outcomes of the students by improving the syllabus based on international standards coupled with latest digital technology in classrooms. Mr Ameerullah focused on speeding up teachers' training and appointments of subject specialist teachers in higher secondary schools.

MMA candidates Maulana Hidayatur Rehman and Maulana Abdul Akbar said girl's education would be their main priority in their upcoming term so that gender parity can be improved. Maulana Sirajuddin pledged to focus on improving the primary level education, infrastructure and quality, if he wins the elections. Demands were also raised from the community members who wanted to see better opportunities of higher education in their area supported by scholarships. One community member pointed out the misallocation and underutilization of education budget and urged the candidates to make education their priority in the funds distribution after coming to power.

Towards the conclusion, all contesting candidates signed on a charter of demands for the constitutional provision of quality education for children of Chitral, and promised to deliver on the charter if elected during upcoming elections. The charter is backed by a host of organizations, parents and community members in Chitral.

Talking about this education convention, Sobia Parveen told this scribe that she learned more knowledge from this session and would try to motivate their elected members towards promoting of quality education at Chitral.