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Gujranwala Punjab ASER 2023
Posted By Meenal Javed - Research Analyst (ASER Programme)

The ASER 2023 survey cycle was my first time venturing deep into the villages of Punjab for spot-checks. Along with my colleague, Anisha, I set off early morning on a sunny day to visit two villages in Gujranwala, Punjab. After exiting the motorway and driving through bumpy roads amid lush green fields on the outskirts of Gujranwala, we finally arrived at Chak Dandhiyan. There we visited Government Highschool Dandhiyan. We were welcomed there by a rather energetic and enthusiastic head teacher, Mr. Muhammad Yaqoob Raza. After providing feedback to the ASER volunteers collecting data on school facilities; we had a unique opportunity to engage Mr. Yaqoob in a brief discussion to gain his perspective on “what ails the education system”.

He lamented that parents within the community were not motivated to send their children to school. Their faint commitment is reflected in the low participation in the parent teacher association meetings. He shared that ensuring student attendance is a challenge, especially in rural contexts where children are often expected to help out their families in agricultural work. However, Mr. Yaqoob was working to change the perception of schooling in his community. He shared that the highschool was thriving with regards to extra-curricular activities which help keep students engaged, such as through debate competitions, essay competitions, and sports events. Owing to his tireless efforts and initiatives for the betterment of his school, Government Highschool Dandhiyan had earned the prestigious “International School Award (ISA) 2017-20” presented by the British Council.

Nevertheless, he stressed the various constraints that he faces. The highschool, despite being well-managed in terms of facilities, lacks a proper playground for sports. He further shared, with a face full of concern, that a new development had caused a degree of apprehension among the school teaching staff across Punjab i.e., the recent decision by the Punjab caretaker CM to privatize around 1,000 government schools across the province by handing over their management to a well-known non-profit. The impact of this decision on schooling access, especially in remote and poor communities, is still to be seen. While the teaching staff is anxiously evaluating what this decision means for their own career paths and tenures. The obstacles Mr. Yaqoob faces are no doubt significant, however, his unwavering commitment provides a ray of hope. Undoubtedly, it is the toil of these education champions that is creating “ripples” which will eventually measure up to a wave of change in due time if sustained.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of ASER Pakistan.
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