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Education with fun: Lot of scope for improving kids’ rooms at schools

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Education with fun: Lot of scope for improving kids’ rooms at schools
Lahore:28 June:As around one million children drop out of schools from nursery to grade 1, education authorities are relying on an intervention that aims to attract young students through establishment of purpose-built kids’ rooms.
The development scheme for early childhood education aims to improve the study environment at primary schools. The two-year project is scheduled to end by June 30 but education authorities are hopeful that school councils would persist with the project.
The Rs200 million scheme to set up kids’ rooms in 1,000 primary schools was launched in 2012-13.
The project aimed to counter the dropout rate among children from nursery to grade 1, according to officials of the School Education Department (SED).
“The government is working to improve the study environment to help discourage children dropping out,” said Qaiser Rasheed, the SED deputy secretary (budget and planning).
Under an SED directive in 2010-11, primary schools were required to arrange a room dedicated to attracting children below five years of age. Schools were given funds to set up the rooms equipped with colourful picture books and visual educational material for the children.
Primary schools with better enrollment were included in the scheme, said Rasheed. “Several indicators are used to monitor the environment, including cleanliness arrangements, at the schools,” he said.

According to SED, there are around 2.3 million children enrolled in nursery classes and around 1.3 million in grade 1 in schools across the province.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report 2013, the proportion of children in the three-to-five year age group in schools had increased from 51% in 2012 to 53% in 2013.

Of the 53% enrolled children, 54% are in government schools, 43% in private schools and the remaining 3% in other educational institutions.

The teaching community has reservations about the efficacy of 1,000 kids’ rooms.

“There is no doubt that these rooms attract children but in many schools the rooms are under lock and key,” said a primary government schoolteacher.

Wishing not to be named, she told The Express Tribune that the rooms were unlocked only for a few hours every week. “What is the point of having them then?”

A similar concern was raised by a headmistress of a primary government school in Multan. She said it was unfortunate that the kids’ rooms were not being utilised properly.
An official of the Punjab Teachers Union said that while more than 900 such rooms had been set up in various schools, the major issue was their maintenance.
“You cannot expect the initiatives to be successful without a handsome budget allocation.”
The headmistress from Multan said she could not afford to bear the expenses of any damages to the rooms.
However, Rasheed said that in the 2014-15 provincial budget, Rs20,000 to Rs25,000 had been allocated for school councils in primary schools.
“The amount goes up to Rs100,000 for high schools. The money, allocated from the non- salary budget, goes to school councils and is meant for maintenance.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2014.
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