In Multan, teachers of 389 schools operated under the Punjab Education Foundation have been awaiting their salaries for three months. Shehzad, from the Badhla Sant area of Multan, is facing difficulties paying salaries to his 17 teachers at Shahzad Public High School. This school has 520 students and is one of the 389 schools in Multan that receive financial assistance from the Punjab Education Foundation.
The school owner, Shahzad Hussain, mentioned that the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) provides funds to private schools on a per-student basis, enabling them to offer free and quality education. PEF allocates Rs 550 for nursery, prep, and first- and second-grade students, Rs. 600 for third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students, and Rs. 700 for sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students.
He mentioned that ninth and tenth-grade Arts and Science students receive Rs. 1000 and Rs. 1200, respectively, 1400 to a higher secondary school arts student and Rs 1700 to a science student. These funds come from the Foundation's budget and are spent on these students.
Shahzad Hussain further explained that the Punjab Education Foundation has not been providing funds for the past three months, which has led to a delay in paying teachers' salaries. He also highlighted that the recent increase in electricity bills in August has added to the financial challenges of running the school.
In Shujaabad Tehsil of Multan, Shiraz Public High School has 450 students and 15 teachers. The school owner, Rao Afzal, pointed out that the Punjab Education Foundation's program benefits students in private schools and allows underprivileged children to receive education in private schools and perform well in board exams. However, the lack of funding for the past three months has caused difficulties for them.
Rao Afzal also suggested that if the Punjab government includes the Foundation's budget in the development budget, the funds will reach PEF schools monthly without delays.
Nighat Fatima, a teacher at a PEF school in Muzaffarabad Multan, has not received her salary for three months. She mentioned that the teachers at schools operated under the Punjab Education Foundation receive salaries ranging from Rs. 18,000 to Rs. 30,000, and they have been waiting for it for several months.
The representative organization of these schools, "PEF Partner Association Punjab," General Secretary Farid Bangash, stated that PEF partners are currently using their resources to pay school rent and electricity bills and are contributing to teachers' salaries in some schools. He emphasized that the rising inflation is making the situation increasingly difficult, and the three-month delay in funds from the Foundation is causing distress for everyone.
Mazhar Abbas Khan, the Regional Director of the Punjab Education Foundation in Multan, explained that the Foundation operates three main programs.
The "Fast School Program" involves enrolling existing schools under the Foundation's umbrella. Under the "New School Program," new schools are established in specific areas where PEF schools are needed, and the partner is responsible for their management. The third program, the "Young Voucher Scheme Program," includes both old and new schools, with 80 per cent of students receiving PEF vouchers to cover their fees, while the remaining 20 per cent of affluent parents pay fees. Initially, classes under this program were held in the evening, but now they are conducted during the day.
Mazhar Abbas mentioned that the Punjab Education Foundation has completed the payment of all dues to schools until June 2023.
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Furthermore, the administrative authority of PEF has prepared Rs. 6 billion in funds for the payments due in July, August, and September. Hopefully, these payments will be made within one to two weeks.
He explained, "The budget of the Punjab Education Foundation is developmental. Due to the caretaker government in Punjab, the developmental budget was temporarily halted. However, Governor Punjab Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar requested the Election Commission to grant permission to release the developmental budget for education, health, and emergencies. The Election Commission has approved it."
Mian Waqas Fareed is an education expert. He revealed that the funds for these schools could not be released because of not being a priority for the caretaker government. Many schools were unable to pay their teachers' salaries. However, a few schools' administrations paid half of the salaries from their own pockets. Confirming Rao Afzal's statement, he suggested that if the Punjab government included the Punjab Education Foundation's budget in the salary budget rather than the developmental budget, this issue might be resolved permanently.
Published on 16 Sep 2023