issue
Class cut
The decision of the Punjab Education Foundation to limit the enrollment of student has raised many eyebrows
By Fakhar-ul-Islam
"It is hypocrisy. On one hand, the Punjab government is claiming to promote education in the province, while on the other it is restricting us from enrolling not more than 50 students in nursery/prep class. The chief minister wants to take every 5-year-old Pakistani child in school, whereas Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) has directed us to limit our enrollment in pre-primary classes to 50 only," says a private school owner.

MOOD STREET
The mighty me
By Sarah Sikandar
Stop Taking Yourself Seriously is the name of the first self-help book in the series that I plan to write. The original manuscript is already there, in my mind, and will be seen on the shelves, hopefully in my lifetime. But since that would be too long to wait I thought I should write a teaser instead — just in case the book never comes out (of my mind).

Town Talk
Yad-e-Zaheer: Remembering the life and works of the legendary poet and activist, Zaheer Kashmiri who hailed from Amritsar and spent his life in Lahore, at Alhamra, The Mall on Wednesday, Sep 9 at 4 pm.

Tweaking the intelligence
How BIOS upgradation helps them earn more profit
By Waris Ali
The branded systems, mostly of Dell, IBM and Compaq computer manufacturers, are sold at Hafeez Centre and Hall Road in Lahore. They are the personal computers refurbished after five years of usage mostly in the developed countries.

blockage
Schools everywhere
Schools in residential areas are common in the city. Their growth must be checked for the convenience of all
By Huma Ijaz
As I turned my car on the road leading to my house, a guard approached me and said, "Madam. You cannot go further. This is closing time of the school and the traffic is one-way at this time".

 

 

issue

Class cut

The decision of the Punjab Education Foundation to limit the enrollment of student has raised many eyebrows

By Fakhar-ul-Islam

"It is hypocrisy. On one hand, the Punjab government is claiming to promote education in the province, while on the other it is restricting us from enrolling not more than 50 students in nursery/prep class. The chief minister wants to take every 5-year-old Pakistani child in school, whereas Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) has directed us to limit our enrollment in pre-primary classes to 50 only," says a private school owner.

The move has raised serious concerns among different stakeholders who believe it would deprive thousands of children of their basic right to education, especially when the present government has been claiming to provide "compulsory" and "free" primary education to children.

A coordinator of Foundation Assisted Schools (FAS) programme in Sialkot region says that approximately 0.02 to 0.25 million students will suffer from this decision. The issue came to the limelight last month when the PEF informed the FAS that it would not finance more than 25 students in nursery.

Another school owner says that owing to the poor quality of education, people prefer to send their children to private schools, adding that the denial of funds to the FAS would deprive a section of children of poor/slum areas from "quality education".

The PEF was established under the Punjab Education Foundation Act of 1991 as an autonomous statutory body to encourage and promote education in the private sector operating on non-commercial/non-profit basis. The foundation was meant for the promotion of quality education through public-private partnership, encouraging and supporting the efforts of private sector through technical and financial assistance, innovating and developing new instruments to champion wider educational opportunities at affordable cost to the poor. It was the first time that such a public-private partnership occurred in Pakistan.

FAS programme is the flagship project of PEF, through which the foundation finances the partner schools — up to a maximum of Rs350 per month for each student enrolled for elementary classes and up to Rs400 for secondary classes as tuition fees and related/allied charges.

The financial assistance to the recipient schools is linked with the satisfactory performance of the schools in Quality Assurance Test (QAT). Financial assistance may be discontinued if the school does not meet the quality standards set by the PEF for QAT. Schools are regularly monitored by PEF staff to ensure the basic amenities and teaching aids. Good performance by schools is awarded based on the QAT result.

Interestingly, the assisted private school performed exceptionally well under the 7th QAT administered by PEF held in February-March 2009. According to Zia-ud-Din Butt, Project Officer Academic development unit of PEF, 980 schools out of 1083 have passed the PEF criteria — that is 75 percent students must secure 40 percent marks or above in QAT, maintaining the 90.48 school passing rate. Whereas, the student passing rate was 91.22, as 87,118 students were declared successful from a total of 95,502 students that appeared. 285 schools acquired 100 percent status (where no student failed).

Despite such outstanding results, it is strange why the Foundation is creating troubles for its partner schools, says an education expert.

PEF officials, however, believe that owing to the decision, only "genuine" students would be getting free education at the private schools assisted by the foundation.

PEF’s Director Monitoring and Evaluation, Samina Nawaz, tells TNS that the foundation had been financially assisting over 1,300 private schools under its FAS programme through which Rs 350 per student was being paid to the schools.

Samina Nawaz adds that a survey, conducted by the foundation, revealed that most of the FAS schools had enrolled children of below three years of age in nursery and prep classes just to receive financial assistance. It was also found, she says, that 30 percent of the total enrolment in most of the schools comprised students of nursery/prep classes. "We want to rationalise the enrolment. The new decision will help increase enrolment from class one onward," she says.

The government primary schools enroll children of age four in nursery, says a deputy headmaster of a government school. "There is no restriction on the number of students who get admitted," he says. "Rather the education department encourages the government schools to take more and more students into school."

"It was just to warn the assisted schools regarding the malpractices carried out by them in enrollment," says Rana Muhammad Arif, Managing Director (Finance) PEF. "The foundation, however, will look into the issue in the coming meeting of board of directors," he adds.

The assisted school owners have complained about the bureaucratic attitude of the present government. It is worth noticing that the foundation has been lacking a full-fledged chairman and managing director since May 2008. The present chairman and managing director both are holding two positions. Secretary Schools, Nadeem Ashraf, is holding the additional charge of PEF’s managing director whereas Raja Muhammad Anwar, Chairman Chief Minister’s Task Force on Elementary Education, is also acting as chairman PEF. Nadeem Ashraf sits in civil secretariat Punjab while Raja Muhammad Anwar resides in his office situated in Directorate of Staff Development. Both occasionally visit the Foundation’s head office located in Ahmad Block, Garden Town but are so busy that despite rigorous efforts, the writer could not contact them for their statements.

Former MD PEF, Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik, strongly criticised the decision of the present management of the Foundation. "If parents want their children to study in private school on the government’s expense, the Foundation should not deprive their children in the name of policy matters," he says.

"Also, to support the ‘educational emergency’ imposed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Foundation should encourage private schools to enroll maximum number of students instead of setting limit for enrollment in certain classes," he says.

He adds, "Abrupt policy changes not only damage a lot of government resources but also shatter the confidence of parents and partner schools."

"The Foundation should review its decision and should not create hurdles in the way of children of poor classes to get free education in private school."

 

MOOD STREET

The mighty me

By Sarah Sikandar

Stop Taking Yourself Seriously is the name of the first self-help book in the series that I plan to write. The original manuscript is already there, in my mind, and will be seen on the shelves, hopefully in my lifetime. But since that would be too long to wait I thought I should write a teaser instead — just in case the book never comes out (of my mind).

The reason I want to write this is because many, like yours truly, need help. We, I believe, take ourselves too seriously especially in our dealings with the world around. So much so that even in the most ordinary daily conversations and the most trivial occurrences we fail to deal with opposition and our catty sides overpower us. All that we take pride in — the education, the upbringing and the values — go down the drain. The frontline of egos must be defended at every cost.

Chapter1: No one cares about your grandfather’s acres. The biggest claim-to-fame people want to assert is the past glory and the land they own back home — the stables, the army of servants and villages they own. Right, your grandfather was the nawab of Shikarpur but we did away with that sixty years ago. The dream is over and its time to go to your nine to five job.

Chapter2: My uncle the minister. The minister saab had to kiss don’t know how many frogs (and you know what) to get that ministry. There is no way he will jeopardise that to go out of the way to favour you. The best you can do is get into concerts and uninvited parties and even get your servant bailed. But please don’t ask for more than that. More important, please don’t embarrass yourself by putting up pictures of all the important places the uncle took you to. It’s embarrassing.

Chapter3: The more the better: Most of us do things to either impress people we don’t like, to buy things we don’t need and to do jobs we hate all rolled into one. The reason: so that people have a high opinion of us. Since achievement itself has become synonymous with consumerism — the more you consume the more successful you are — nothing else matters anymore. But the worst victim of all this is you. Be nice to your bank account, it might be good to you someday, not your ‘frenemies.’

Chapter4: Get a life, ghairat is so last century. It is your self-respect that needs to be preserved. We often hear people say (not just the high school teenagers) "what does he think of himself?" The question should be addressed to one’s self first. In other words, we want to make sure people know where we come from so that they think twice before opening their mouth. If you don’t stop taking every offence as a threat to your ghairat, it will eventually damage your self-respect.

Take lesson from the ever-applicable cliché: "barking dogs seldom bite" — no offence to dogs or men. But people, we should realise, will be people. Everyone has an opinion and everyone wants to get it across. The key to your escape is to either not give them line or let them have it. Either way never let go of your grace. It will make you feel better eventually and what’s more, it pays off.

Chapter5: Still waters run deep: At this point this piece has become too didactic. So it is time to flip. Those who never get into brawls are those who remain to zip it. The choice to remain silent sometimes comes with the price of becoming an introvert. We should never let people damage the better side of us (we all have it, we are not politicians).

Chapter6: No one cares about you: That’s the truth. In the big bad world you are but a "bubble." Think of yourself as ‘no one.’ Take it from C S Lewis: "A proud man is always looking down on things and people, and of course, as long as you are looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you."

PS: There is little possibility this book will break a new social life theory. So why write it?

 

Town Talk

Yad-e-Zaheer: Remembering the life and works of the legendary poet and activist, Zaheer Kashmiri who hailed from Amritsar and spent his life in Lahore, at Alhamra, The Mall on Wednesday, Sep 9 at 4 pm.

An exhibition of photographs by a civil society organisation ‘Hum Log’ at Alhamra, The Mall till Sep 15. The exhibition showcases a wide range of photographs depicting images of the plight of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the refugee camps of Jalozai and Sheikh Yaseen.

Paintings Exhibition by various artists at Revivers Galleria till September 15.

The gallery remains open from 11 am to 9:30 pm.

Sunday Cycle Ride to start from Zakir Tika at 5 pm.

Exhibition: Fahd Burki’s new works on display at Grey Noise, 26A, KB Colony, Allama Iqbal Airport Road.

Email:[email protected]

Ghazal Night at Peerus Cafe every Friday at 9pm.

Jazz Night at Peerus Cafe every Saturday

at 9pm featuring live

performance by Jazz Moods.

How BIOS upgradation helps them earn more profit

By Waris Ali

The branded systems, mostly of Dell, IBM and Compaq computer manufacturers, are sold at Hafeez Centre and Hall Road in Lahore. They are the personal computers refurbished after five years of usage mostly in the developed countries.

With the technology advancing fast, the Pentium II and Pentium III systems have almost vanished from the market, and the Pentium IV systems ranging from 1.8 GHz to 3.2 GHz processor speeds have replaced them as the only choice of the customers, particularly in all big cities including Lahore.

A friend, who is well-versed in computer technology, said that mispresenting the computer specifications through the BIOS, known as system setup, is a usual practice. The computer dealers change the BIOS chip or upgrade its software. Though BIOS chip corruption is quite rare, it is still vulnerable to customization — and our computer experts practise this with absolute expertise. With the help of a configuration utility, they tweak BIOS to misread the processor and its bus speed, the graphic card denomination and even the installed Random Access Memory (RAM) — the three most important hardware components in a personal computer.

The Basic Input/Output System, commonly abbreviated as BIOS, is the first machine code run by a personal computer when powered on to identify, test and initialise system devices during boot-up. BIOS programmes are a firmware which is, by all means, a software and stored on a small chip, amply proved by the fact that BIOS was infected by defamed Chernobyl virus, which attacked the computer when its clock reached the date of April 26, no matter whatever the year.

There are frequent chances of ‘upgradation’ of the BIOS software which reads the specifications of computer hardware. As a result of change of the BIOS chip on the motherboard, or upgradation of the BIOS software, it is possible to tamper the specifications of processor and the system bus. Therefore, in a number of cases, the BIOS software may be tampered so as to show a 450 MHz processor as 1300 MHz and a 1.8 GHz processor as 3.2 GHz and likewise a 100 MHz bus speed as 250 MHz bus speed.

Other specifications remaining same, the price of a personal computer with 3.2 GHz processor is a few thousand higher than that of 1.8 GHz processor computer. "But the tampering brings about five times more profit in case of a laptop, which are costly and still considered a status symbol," revealed one Hafeez Centre vendor dealing in laptops. He added that this practice is specific to Pakistan. "Only our experts have learnt this skill".

"Few customers know what a system bus speed means, but they boast of buying a P-IV system. Only professional computer users can assess the difference between the performance of a 1.8 GHz processor and 3.2 GHz processor," the vendor explained.

Though RAM, graphic card and the hard disc are essential parts of a computer system, it is processor which determines power of a personal computer, since the speed of data processing depends on clock speed of the processor and the system bus.

Interestingly, the Intel Company does not mention clock speed on the Pentium processor. Further, finding out accurate system bus speed is almost impossible for a common user. The working of computer system depends on the memory and graphic card and hard disc, so a Pentium IV system with 1.8 GHz processor can work equally well like Pentium IV system with 3.2 GHz if the former has a greater memory and the graphic card of higher specification.

While the installed Windows operating systems, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Vista, also read the processor speed, bus speed and graphic card denomination, they are bound to read only what the BIOS system shows.

Meanwhile, there is much ambiguity about the graphic card specification. It requires little sense to understand that a computer with higher processor must be having a built-in graphic card of higher denomination. While a built-in card cannot be replaced its specification is also misread after chip change or software upgradation. "This practice is not as common as that about processors," a person dealing in sale of computer said.

For further information visit: http://www.wikihow.com/Update-Your-Computer’s-BIOS or

http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/33

 

blockage

Schools everywhere

Schools in residential areas are common in the city. Their growth must be checked for the convenience of all

By Huma Ijaz

As I turned my car on the road leading to my house, a guard approached me and said, "Madam. You cannot go further. This is closing time of the school and the traffic is one-way at this time".

"My house is just down the lane, let me go," I argued. After much insistence he allowed me.

My car moved at a snail’s pace and it took me half an hour to cover a quarter kilometer distance. After reaching home, I realised, it would have been much better if I had taken the longer route.

This problem is faced by every other person due to the mushrooming of schools in residential areas. There are schools on narrow roads, creating traffic mess twice a day. Approach to the houses in the adjoining areas of the school becomes impossible. Due to insufficient parking space, people park their vehicles in front of a house, which is illegal and causes trouble for the residents. Tranquility of the neighbourhood is also lost. It not only creates problems for the residents, the resultant traffic congestion is equally troublesome for the parents who come to pick up their children. They have to wait in long queues in the scorching weather for hours. Many roads in Lahore have more than one school on them. The questions is: Who gives them the license?

Gone are the days when residents would wake up by alarm. Now the horns of the cars do the needful. "It becomes impossible to sleep after 6 O am," says Nasreen Rizvi, who lives in a lane where there is a school.

The residents often feel they are under a curfew during the peak hours. "It’s impractical to get your car out of the house during those timings," says Tayyab Rizvi. "Once my wife was not feeling well and we wanted to go to the hospital but we were stuck in the house for a long time because a car was parked in front of our gate. We complained to the school guard but it took him long to find the owner of the car. Thank God, it was not an emergency".

In despair, he wrote an application to the school authorities and Nazim of the Union Council (UC) but it fell on deaf ears. He argues that these private schools take hefty fees but do not invest on the construction of parking areas.

Describing the condition of road, Amir Majeed complains, "The school in front of our house does not have any underground drain and the rain water from the school is collected on the road which has severely damaged the road. Other than the road our lawns, ramps and manhole covers are broken every other day due to heavy traffic". Depressed and angry at the school authorities, Abdul Majeed exclaims, "Due to so much power outages, the school authorities have fixed a generator which is exactly opposite to our house. A person tends to lose his sanity because of the noise."

Traffic jams, illegal parking, damaged roads, broken ramps, destroyed lawns, noise and land pollution – the list does not end here. Above all there is an element of ‘insecurity’ which these private schools have induced in the people living in their vicinity.

"Schools have extended their boundary walls and increased the number of guards in order to boost up their security but nothing has been offered to us. We feel miserable." says Tayyab Rizvi.

Nazims feel helpless as these schools are owned by highly influential people and it is difficult for them to take any action. In a particular case, the school is owned by a close relative of an ex-prime minister. Nazim of that UC argues that the people in the neighbourhood have themselves signed the no-objection certificate (NOC). He admits that the school authorities might have used different tactics like bribery, authority, and even sometimes they cultivate amiable contacts with the residents in order to get the NOC signed.

When TNS approached Director Town Planning LDA (Lahore Development Authority), he explained that LDA gives annual licenses to schools and those schools which are established in houses have to get an NOC signed from the immediate neighbours. He admits that under law, private schools might be regarded as ‘commercial entity’.

When his attention was drawn to the problems people are facing because of schools in residential areas, he said, "I, myself have faced this problem. The root cause of the problem lies in the fact that our localities are not properly planned".

He was very optimistic that this problem would be resolved after the induction of Land Rules (2009).

LDA should not issue NOC to schools which do not have proper parking space and other required facilities. It should ensure that the locations of the schools should be mapped in the schemes. All the schools should be on double roads and should not be permitted in houses. School authorities need to provide a proper transport system so that traffic mess could be controlled. There can be a policy under which a legal system should be devised for the establishment of schools. All over the world there is the concept of neighbourhood schools but then proper laws govern them.

 

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