It is often said that unless something impacts our politicians and elected leaders directly, they are unlikely to do much about it. The socioeconomic disparity in Pakistani is vast, and for the poorest children of Pakistani society, government schools are the only option. As of today, there is no obligation for politicians and elected government officials to send their children to school – so the state of government schools as it stands today and the quality of education imparted there does not directly impact them. It is easy for politicians to blame bureaucratic red tape or budget constraints for their failure to reform education in a meaningful way. Prior to the 2013 general elections, all political parties made public commitments to improve the state of education in Pakistan. But few elected representatives have stepped up to take full ownership of the problem.
Sheikh Ejaz Ahmed, a member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, elected from Faisalabad (PP-68), is determined to break this pattern. At a meeting in the Punjab Governor’s House in 2013, Ahmed was struck by a question: What if politicians’ children were required to study in government schools? “I thought to myself, as parliamentarians, if our children go to Aitchison or Beaconhouse or other elite schools, how will we have any idea of what problems government schools are facing? We have to own this problem. If we do, there is no doubt that the education landscape will be transformed.” He went on to enrol his son in a government boys high school in his constituency. Sheikh Ejaz Ahmed is currently a member of PML-N.
Ziaullah Bangash, a member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, elected from Kohat (PK-38) is another example. In order to demonstrate his commitment to improving education in his constituency, he enrolled his young daughter in a government primary school. He has since committed to improving the quality of learning available to children in the school, particularly maths and science. He kicked off the enrolment season 2017 by enrolling young Abeeya Zia in school and urged other politicians, policy and law makers and government officials to do the same. He mentioned that the intent was to show his commitment to improving education and also to revive community faith in the government schooling system. Ziaullah Bangash is currently a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
It is imperative to recognize parliamentarians who has taken their responsibility to Pakistan and its children this seriously – the hope is that score more will follow and improve government schools enough so that Pakistan’s poorest children, are competing head-on with their own children.