Islamabad - Despite provincial governments’ claims about focussing wholehearted attention to education sector, a lot more needs to be done on ground.

The issue of school management council (SMC) funds requires especial attention since only 54 percent of the government primary schools surveyed in district Bahawalpur reported to have received SMC grants during the FY 2013-14, according to a report of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aghai (ITA), a nongovernmental organisation.

Zehra Arshad, national coordinator PCE, said that the report will serve as input for the enhanced accountability of the school management by local representatives and will help improve the school functioning. The report aims to inform the community, parents and governmental officials in particular about the availability and utilisation of funds at government primary schools.

The SMCs are run by the school management and parents, which propose, administer and oversee developmental work of the schools through government released funds.

About 65 percent of the schools, which received the funds, got them in the last quarter of the fiscal year 2013-14. The percentage was relatively higher for the surveyed government primary schools in district Mardan, as 83 percent of them acknowledged receiving SMC grants, whereas only 15 percent of the surveyed government primary schools in district Sukkur are receiving these grants.

These findings were made public in the stakeholders’ meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday. The social accountability survey has been conducted by about 100 volunteers, mainly local youngsters from within the communities around these schools, managed by Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) in collaboration with Al-Kausar Foundation, Jauhar Welfare Organisation Sukkur, and Care Foundation Mardan.

The social accountability survey collected information about 300 government primary schools in three districts namely Bahawalpur, Mardan and Sukkur. In addition to this, detailed information was collected about facilities provided in schools. Furthermore, the governance and utilisation of these funds at school level seems to be done not in a very promising manner. Most of utilisation decisions were done solely by the head teachers alone without taking into account the devised mechanism or required consultation from other SMC members.

About 12 percent of the surveyed schools in district Sukkur reported that their SMCs did not meet at all during the last year whereas SMCs of only 32 percent schools reported to have met once every quarterly. A large proportion of SMC members in district Sukkur, about 70 per cent, were found to be either illiterate or having qualification less than matriculation.

For governance purposes, all government schools have been made mandatory to publicly display the expenses and details of their SMC funds. But during this survey it was found that actual practice of the schools in three districts was very far from the legal requirement. Only 7 percent of the government schools in Bahawalpur were found to be publicly displaying and regularly updating the SMC funds’ details, whereas the ratio was 5 percent for Mardan, and 15 percent for Sukkur.

Speaking on the occasion, Saeed ul Hassan – Head Education Programme Oxfam GB, emphasised on the importance of school annual development plans, and suggested that every school’s plan needs to be linked with the development plans of the whole district.

Nargis Sultana, programme officer FOSI, recommended, “We also need to understand and make sure that school councils are truly school/ community representatives and understand their roles and responsibilities very well.”