KARACHI - Sindh Assembly on Thursday passed a bill, enabling the provincial government to promote students of matric, intermediate and technical boards without taking examinations due to outbreak of COVID-19.

Presented by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla, ‘the Sindh Board of Technical Education and the Sindh Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education (Amendment) Bill, 2020’ was passed with majority of votes as main opposition parties Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Grand Democratic Alliance were protesting against immediate consideration of four government bills. They shouted slogans against the government and later boycotted the proceedings.

After passage of the bill, the boards will have the power to grant certificate and diploma to the candidates promoted without examination. “The COVID-19 Pandemic has disrupted lives of the people of the country as well as the province of Sindh and has affected every sector of life including the education sector. The Steering Committee of School Education and Literacy Department formed its sub-committees on May 16, 2020 which suggested that the holding of examination of all classes at school and college level had become almost impossible due to pandemic and proposed promotion of the students in accordance with the Standards Operating Procedures approved by the government,” statement of objects and reasons of the bill read.

It added that “There is no provision in the existing laws of Technical Education and General Education for promotion of the students of different level classes in order to enforce the decision of the steering committee, it will be expedient in the public interest to make suitable amendment in the Sindh Board of Technical Education Ordinance, 1970 and the Sindh Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education Ordinance, 1972.”

Speaking on the bill Education Minister Saeed Ghani said that federal and provincial governments through deliberations had decided to promote the candidates in the wake of novel coronavirus. He said Sindh government had pointed out that existing laws didn’t allow promotions of the students to next classes without taking examination. “It was the Sindh government that suggested amendment in the law,” Ghani added.

He also came down hard on the opposition for staging walkout and said that they didn’t even read the bills and started protesting. Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani also expressed his displeasure over attitude of main opposition and parties and said ‘they always make hooliganism but I will not allow that.’

Separately, the assembly passed The Sindh Teaching Hospitals (Establishment of Management Board) Bill, 2020 for establishment of an independent Management Board to provide foolproof mechanism to control the teaching hospitals. Likewise the assembly also passed ‘The Ziauddin Medical University (Amendment) Bill, 2020’. Education Minister said now the varsity could open its new campus abroad as well. Two other government bills passed during the sitting included The Education City (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and The NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Two government bills—The Sindh Evacuee Trust Properties (Management and Disposal) Bill, 2019 and The Sindh Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Bill, 2020—were introduced by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and the same were sent to concerned standing committees for further deliberations.

Earlier on privilege motion of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Syed Abdul Rasheed against Public Relation Officer of Shaheed Mohtarma Benzair Bhutto Medical College, a three-member committee was formed to look into the matter. The mover maintained that the PRO had used abusive language and levelled baseless allegations against him.

Later, the house was adjourned till Friday which would be observed as private members day.

Meanwhile, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani on Thursday said that 37,000 posts of the school teachers including 1,148 of special subject teachers were lying vacant across the province and their appointments were delayed due to litigation.

Furnishing replies to lawmakers’ written and verbal queries during Question hours in the Sindh Assembly Session, Ghani said that the teachers would be appointed soon. He said that associations of teachers had moved the high court as they had reservations on the recruitments. “Following the court’s orders, rules have been made for recruitment process and sent to the law department for vetting,” he added.

To a question of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf member Rabia Azfar Nizami, the minister said that more than 8.5 million children were getting education in public and private schools, madrassas, and other places across the province.

He said around 3.5 million children were out of schools in Sindh as there were 12.5 million children in the province, as per the last census.

Conceding that the absence of secondary schools in several areas in the province, Ghani said that primary schools constituted around 90 percent of the total 42,383 government schools.

In reply to another question, he said that 1,262 teachers were recruited in schools and colleges on deceased quota during 2017-2018.

He said that the number of subject specialists (grade-17) in the province was 791 while 1,148 posts were vacant in this regard adding that the Sindh Public Service Commission had been informed in-writing to start selection process.

Ghani said that the provincial government had started work on 9,000 schools in the province with a target of 80 percent enrolment. “This project will be completed by 2021, after which 80 percent of the students in the province will get basic education,” the minister added.

To a question by Grand Democratic Alliance member Arif Mustafa Jatoi, he said that as per Annual School Census 2015-2016, total 5,384 schools were reported closed, out of which 4,123 were closed temporarily and 1.261 permanently. “However, total 3,216 school were reported dysfunctional, of them 1,495 temporarily, in the 2016-2017 census,” he added.

To a question by PTI’s Rabia, the minister said that there were 6,567 schools in dangerous buildings and the provincial government had already taken initiative for their reconstruction and rehabilitation.