KARACHI - Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that education is a high priority area and a multi-pronged approach needs to be adopted to bring out-of-school children to schools.

Although some effective steps have been taken, the demands of the sector are tremendous and more needs to be done, he said while presiding over a meeting of the 8th Board of Governors (BoG) of the Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) at Chief Minister’s House on Thursday. The meeting was attended by the education minister who happens to be vice chairman of the SEF.

The BoG consists of Sindh Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon, Planning and Development Department Chairman M Waseem, Education Secretary Aziz Uqaili, Finance Secretary Hassan Naqvi, SEF Managing Director Naheed Shah and non-official members Dr Kaiser Bengali, Dr Qazi Masood, Dr Muhammad Memon, Hussnain Qamar Shah and director of the Sindh Education Foundation.

Briefing the board, Naheed Shah Durrani stated that the foundation had not only expanded its outreach to 506,511 students through a network of 2,100 schools during the last few years, but also made some structural changes. She said the foundation was gradually moving to post-primary portfolio. Today, it has an enrolment of 80,000 students at post-primary level in elementary, secondary and high schools.

“The SEF has moved on from two-room/three-room schools and now it has six plus room schools,” she said. She said there was a minimum complement of services available in schools together with required teachers. She added that SEF had prepared in-house quality workbooks and provided these to over 350,000 students across the foundation schools to boost their learning.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah examined the foundation’s portfolio and appreciated its efforts. He said the public-private partnership now needed to be structured to help the government reach out to students who were out of school. He said that “methodologies and implementation plans can be deliberated to tackle the issue of abandoned schools with the School Education Department taking the lead and engaging the foundation as a key player in the education sector”.

The chief minister directed Minister of Education Jam Mehtab Dahar, Education Secretary Aziz Uqaili and the SEF managing director to explore possibility of public-private partnership to make 2,000 closed schools operational and get maximum out-of-school children into schools.

The foundation managing director submitted the progress report on quality initiative `Teach for Change’. The board was informed that 77 Teaching Support Associates (TSAs) on the model of “Teach for Pakistan” and “Teach for America” had been hired from prestigious institutions. These young graduates will play their role as subject specialist teachers and change agents in foundation’s schools in far flung areas of Sukkur, Hyderabad, Dadu, Mirpurkhas and Tharparkar regions in the first phase.

Moreover, with a view to supplement traditional teaching and learning, the progress on ICT-based learning was shown to the board. The foundation has already done a pilot project for grade 5 (mathematics and science) educational contents in five districts -- Khairpur, Dadu, Umerkot, Mirpurkhas, and Karachi. Resultantly, 60-70 percent learning improvement was recorded by the foundation’s in-house Learning Support Unit. This application will be launched in September 2017. The chief minister would formally launch the programme after Ramazan this year.

The SF managing director also presented the revised budget of the CFY 2016-17 and the budget estimate of FY 2017-18 to the board. The forum was informed that 89 percent of the budget was spent on student fee and school development services in the outgoing year, whereas the same was envisaged for the next fiscal year. This showed the core focus on learning and quality initiatives. The board unanimously approved service rules for the foundation and increase in salaries of SEF employees in line with annual budgetary increment of the government with a view to strengthen operations in the region as well.