Dealing with working poverty in education sector | By Muneer Ahmed Mirjat 


Dealing with working poverty in education sector

POVERTY has various standards but mostly accepted definitions describe it as a person who is living under the poverty line is poor. The World Bank publishes statistics for each world region on an annual basis.

In Pakistan, we have different social standards for considering one poor or rich, if a person has sufficient Bank Balance, House, Car and Branded clothing, etc then he is not poor.

The salaried persons have one source of income, therefore, they are most vulnerable to an increase in prices of commodities and other necessary items.

The items, things and matters which were considered luxury items are now becoming mandatory for every citizen.

Having a TV, VCR, and Car were considered as luxurious items in the 70s are now considered as mandatory items and to have all these items you must have multiple sources of income, or one must use all personal loans available through banks to remain their lifetime customer.

The people in the education sector have found diverse ways to increase or add to their monthly income.

One of the popular ways to decrease working poverty is to start tutoring the same students who are already enrolled in schools and colleges. They establish coaching centres and promote their business for success in their career.

There are individuals in Government schools and colleges who work hard by teaching, mentoring and facilitating students to achieve their career or choice but most of the students will rely on notes of coaching centres, their mock tests and guess papers.

The teachers who develop a good reputation will raise their charges and the direct load will be on the parents of poor students.

The allied business of photocopying notes, the website for test material, videos for content, etc are added as an additional way to earn more and more.

The active college teachers always establish their working relationship with Board officials and paper checking as well as invigilation duties are distributed through diverse ways to only those who are their likeminded.

The beneficiaries of these duties are expected to share some of the earnings through gifts or invited lunches and dinners etc

As there is no system of defining workload, regulations for dual jobs and consultancies, therefore, this type of system has now strong roots in our institutions. The students who can pay for good grades are facilitated through such groups.

This not only disturbs teachers who are working hard for disposition of teaching job as well those students who are putting all efforts for securing good grades but are not assessed accordingly.

The opening of private schools is another major avenue to subside working poverty, involve your household and relatives in teaching after getting franchise campus of popular school chain.

Such schools are visible in all major cities which are property of working teachers, officers and staff of the education sector.

It is good that they are contributing to raising the literacy level of the country along with increasing their income but there must be some regulatory framework for opening and running a school or college in the region.

The efforts for decreasing working poverty does not stop at the school or college level but it continues to further grow at the university level. The terms briefcase teacher is already in the academic dictionary which need not be further explained.

There is a need to have visiting faculty of real professionals in different domains at all universities for sharing the practical side to many disciplines.

Unfortunately, some of the universities hire non-professionals who are more interested in the income from that activity rather than delivering something to students.

Check and balance at the university level can improve the situation and the habit of hiring new visiting faculty members for every semester will waste the time of the human resource team and finance team to create new files etc. The contract may be year or two at least.

The teachers who are on visiting faculty list will be less interested in developing institutional capacity for the area of their expertise.

It is also observed that visiting teachers will try to satisfy students by awarding satisfactory results to the students which are not good for even students to get these grades without any challenging work.

Many teachers will get some payment or gifts from students for awarding passing marks in the terms system wherein the complete control of awarding marks to the students is in the hands of the teacher.

There are many media reports about exploiting female students for marks in the term system. There is a need to regulate the education sector from all dimensions to avoid malpractices carried out by some of the stakeholders.

The government, as well as social structures, must play their role in improving the education sector which is a must for building a nation as well as bringing this country into the list of developed countries.

—The writer is Deputy Director at Higher Education Commission, Islamabad.

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