New Age Islam News Bureau
28 Jan 2015
Young Muslim Woman Attend March to Protest Attacks against Charlie Hebdo, Credit: Steve Marty via Je Suis Charlie Facebook Page
• Why Is Sajida Al-Rishawi Important To ISIS?
• Church of England Consecrated First Woman Bishop
• Veiled Women Targeted in Post-Hebdo France
• Fund to Help Kingdom’s Enterprising Women Soon
• Crown Prince Muqrin ‘Saved My Daughter’
• Female Guards File Discrimination Complaints against Guantánamo Judges
• Tradition of Abducting the Bride for Marriage and Polygamy in Decline in J&K
• Mother of Japanese captive begs PM to save son held by Islamic State
• 15pc Children Still Out Of School In Pak Punjab
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Michelle Obama Draws Flak for Going without Headscarf in Saudi Arabia
January 28, 2015
RIYADH: Joining President Barack Obama for a condolence visit after the death of the King Abdullah, Mrs. Obama stepped off of Air Force One wearing long pants and a long, brightly coloured jacket — but no headscarf.
Under the kingdom's strict dress code for women, Saudi females are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public.
Most women in Saudi Arabia cover their hair and face with a Niqab (veil). But covering one's head is not required for foreigners, and some Western women choose to forego the headscarf while in Saudi Arabia.
As an all-male delegation of dozens of Saudi officials greeted the Obamas in Riyadh, some shook hands with Mrs. Obama. Others avoided a handshake but acknowledged the first lady with a nod as they passed by.
Saudi Arabia imposes many restrictions on women on the strict interpretation of Shariah law known as Wahhabism. Genders are strictly segregated and women are banned from driving, although there have been campaigns in recent years to lift that ban.
Guardianship laws also require women to get permission from a male relative to travel, get married, enroll in higher education or undergo certain surgical procedures.
More than 1,500 tweets criticised the first lady on Twitter using a hashtag that roughly translates to #MichelleObamaunveiled, said a report published on the Washington Post.
Some pointed out that Michelle Obama had worn a headscarf during a recent trip to Indonesia. However, many users said that Mrs. Obama should not be criticised as the trip to Saudi Arabia was impromptu.
The Obamas' visit to Saudi Arabia itself stirred backlash due to recent international criticism of the country for the flogging of blogger Raif Badwani for insulting Islam. President Obama reportedly said that the visit was apolitical and he is not likely to discuss Badwani with the new king.
Some reports suggested that Saudi state television's broadcast blurred footage of Michelle Obama's head during the couple's meeting with Saudi Arabia's new king. However, Saudi Embassy officials in Washington denied that Michelle Obama's uncovered head was blurred on television, according to a report published on ABC News.
The broadcast showed Mr. and Mrs. Obama being welcomed by King Salman on a red-carpeted ramp and a military band played American and Saudi national anthems.
Why Is Sajida Al-Rishawi Important To ISIS?
January 28, 2015
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) demanded the release of a woman being held in Jordan for allegedly attempting to carry out a series of terrorist attacks in 2005, Reuters news agency reported.
In a broadcast carried by the Al-Bayan radio, which transmits in areas the group controls, ISIS described Sajida al-Rishawi as “our sister” asking for her release in exchange for the freedom of Kenji Goto, a Japanese hostage held by the militants.
Rishawi is a would-be Iraqi female suicide bomber on death row in Jordan in connection with triple hotel bomb attacks in Amman that killed 60 people on November 9, 2005.
Following her arrest, she appeared on state television confessing that she had taken part in the terror attacks.
“My husband detonated his bomb, and I tried to detonate mine but failed,” Rishawi said in a televised confession, CNN reported.
She said she is an Iraqi national who had been sent to Jordan to target hotels in Amman. In 2006, she was sentenced to death but a policy in Jordan imposed later that year suspended death sentences.
In the confession, al-Rishawi said, “My husband is the one who organized everything.”
The Amman bombings were claimed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq who was killed in a U.S. air raid there in June 2006.
His group was a precursor of the ISIS, and Rishawi's brother, Samir Atruss al-Rishawi, who was also killed in Iraq, was one of Zarqawi's lieutenants.
The voice in the ISIS broadcast revealed a new demand for the release Rishawi, saying the militants are no longer demanding money to save Goto’s life, but want "their sister" to be freed.
Church of England consecrated first woman bishop
January 28, 2015
LONDON: The Church of England consecrated its first woman bishop, more than two decades after the Church allowed women to become priests.
The Reverend Libby Lane, 48 and a mother-of-two was consecrated as Bishop of Stockport in a ceremony at York Minster, a Gothic cathedral in northern England.
The new Bishop called it a "profound and remarkable moment".
The Church formally adopted legislation last November to allow women bishops.
The move ended a centuries-old tradition of exclusively male bishops.
Mrs Lane said "It is a remarkable thing that this happens to me, and people have been very supportive of me personally, but actually this is about a moment in the Church's history."
It would be "a very profound, remarkable moment for me then and for my future ministry", she said.
After the change was approved, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that the Church was entering "a completely new phase of our existence".
Mrs Lane's appointment brought to an end 22 years of resistance to the promotion of female priests.
The general synod of the Church voted to back plans for female bishops in July and formally adopted legislation on November 17.
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted "Congratulations to Revd Libby Lane on becoming the first woman bishop in the Church. A historic appointment and an important day for equality".
As Bishop of Stockport, Mrs Lane will serve as a suffragan (assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Chester.
Libby Lane was ordained as a priest in 1994 and has served a number of parish and chaplaincy roles in the North of England.
She is one of eight clergy women from the Church of England elected as participant observers in the House of Bishops.
After school in Manchester and University at Oxford, Lane trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham. She was ordained a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994, serving her curacy in Blackburn, Lancashire.
Her husband, George, is also a priest; they were one of the first married couples in the Church of England to be ordained together.
Lane added "I am grateful for, though somewhat daunted by, the confidence placed in me by the Diocese of Chester. On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be Bishop, I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment".
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said "Libby brings a wealth of experience in parish ministry, in hospital and chaplaincy, in vocations work and the nurture of ordinands".
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said "I am absolutely delighted that Libby has been appointed to succeed Bishop Robert Atwell as Bishop of Stockport. Her Christ-centred life, calmness and clear determination to serve the church and the community make her a wonderful choice. She will be bishop in a diocese that has been outstanding in its development of people".
Veiled Women Targeted in Post-Hebdo France
January 28, 2015
WOMENSENEWS)-- Veiled Muslim women are the most vulnerable to anti-Muslim attacks after the shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this month, says Elsa Ray, spokesperson of the Paris-based Collective Against Islamophobia.
Since the killings of 10 employees at the satirical weekly newspaper--including the editor-in-chief and several cartoonists--as well as two policemen, attacks against Muslims and their places of worship in France have increased. "About 100 attacks against mosques and Muslims have been recorded since the attack," Ray said in a phone interview on Monday.
The collective has registered at least seven physical attacks against veiled women, including one who is still hospitalized for severe injuries. (For background, see our French veil ban series.)
"Veiled women are always the first victims because they are more visible," said Ray, adding the women are also suffering verbal attacks, including threats.
She said the collective is working on several cases of veiled women who were turned away by police officers when, for a range of reasons, they entered police stations. "Police officers are pressuring some women to take off the veil claiming it is the law," Ray said. " It is not the law. It is not true and it is unacceptable."
At least two cases investigated by the collective have been confirmed so far, Ray says, adding that the collective is not naming those police stations for legal reasons.
Ray said this type of discrimination was unheard of before the Hebdo attacks and represents the widespread "security paranoia" in France triggered by the Jan. 7 attacks.
Fund to help Kingdom’s enterprising women soon
January 28, 2015
Deen Al-Manahil, a Riyadh-based organization, will launch in March the Princess Madawi bint Musaad Fund for Women’s Development to help aspiring Saudi female entrepreneurs.
“We will provide them with either training or seed money so that they can start their own business ventures,” said Hanan Asmari, Deen Al-Manahil’s manager.
A non-profit organization, Deen Al-Manahil's main goal is to help Saudi women, regardless of age, start small- to medium-business ventures.
She said that not all Saudi women seeking Deen Al-Manahil’s help need seed money to start their own business ventures. “They are merely interested in the training which we provide in collaboration with local universities like King Saud University, Princess Noura University and Imam University,” she said.
She said that at present, Deen Al-Manahil is training 100 Saudi women who intend to start their own business ventures.
“We help them with all the tools and information necessary to start a business project. At present, Al-Manahil is assisting 20 business projects, some of which were implemented three years ago,” she said.
Asmari added that if they need funding, Al-Manahil gives a maximum of SR3000,000 without interest.
“However, they will have to pay back the money. They start paying only on the second year after receiving the amount. The total amount should be fully paid in five years,” she said.
Asked how they ask for help in training or funding, Asmari said that they could visit Deen Al-Manahil’s website.
She expressed the hope that those being assisted by Al Manahil will also help other Saudi women intending to start their own business in the future.
The Ministry of Social Affairs has been coordinating with Al-Manahil regarding its activities in helping Saudi women aspiring to become entrepreneurs.
Crown Prince Muqrin ‘saved my daughter’
January 28, 2015
A 60-year-old Madinah woman says Crown Prince Muqrin saved the life of her daughter when he was governor of the city.
Umm Mohammed, a resident of Al-Ais province in Madinah, said that when her daughter fell ill, the family did not have money for her treatment. She then decided to seek Prince Muqrin’s help while he was visiting the area.
“When I was near his camp, I suddenly I saw many cars coming. I was surprised when the car carrying Prince Muqrin stopped and he got out and said: ‘What is your request, my mother?’”
“I asked him to help me get treatment for my daughter. He gave me money and then told one of his companions to communicate with me. He promised that he would personally pay for my daughter’s treatment.”
Umm Mohammed said her daughter recovered after several successful surgeries and is now completing her college studies, according to a report in a local newspaper.
Prince Muqrin was governor of Madinah from 1995 to 2005. He served as Hail governor from 1980 to 1999.
Female guards file discrimination complaints against Guantánamo judges
GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVY BASE, CUBA
January 28, 2015
Some female soldiers at the prison’s secret lockup for former CIA captives have filed gender-discrimination complaints against two military judges who are forbidding women from handling prisoners to and from legal meetings.
One of the judges, Navy Capt. J.K. Waits, announced the development Monday at a hearing in the case of Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, accused of committing war crimes as commander of al-Qaida’s Army in Afghanistan after the 2001 U.S. invasion.
It’s the latest wrinkle in an ongoing tug of war over an apparent new assignment of female guards to escort duty moving so-called high-value captives to legal appointments from Camp 7, the secret lockup at Guantánamo where the U.S. keeps former captives of the spy agency’s so-called Black Site program. The prisoners say that, for years, only male soldiers moved them, out of respect for their religious and cultural belief that only women in their family can touch them.
The prison defends the male-female shackling and escort duty as consistent with the Pentagon’s commitment to gender neutrality. It says, however, that only men still supervise Guantánamo prisoners’ showers and conduct genital searches.
The issue arose in October when, according to Hadi defense lawyer Marine Corps Lt. Col. Tom Jasper, a female guard, for the first time since Hadi got to Guantánamo in 2007, tried to shackle him. The Muslim man refused, and a squad of male soldiers forcibly shackled and moved him back to his Camp 7 cell.
Waits responded in November with an injunction against the use of female guards. He will hear arguments on whether to keep the ban this week. Defense lawyers characterize it as a religious-rights issue at the prison that highlights its sensitivity to captives’ Muslim traditions and religion. They have invoked the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby religious accommodation decision.
The female guard issue is part of a long list of conditions-of-confinement challenges at the war court to shifting prison practices for former CIA detainees whose harsh treatment was revealed in the recently released Senate “Torture Report.”
Defense attorneys protest that small changes disrupt the peace and thwart attorney-client trial preparation for the men who spent years disappeared into the CIA’s dark sites — without benefit of lawyers or Red Cross visits.
In the case of the alleged USS Cole bomber, who apparently doesn’t care if he is touched by women guards, his attorney said Monday that he was preparing a “shaving motion” over guards allegedly no longer allowing the captive to shave before meetings with his lawyers. The guards have decided that Saudi Abd al Rahim al Nashiri can only shave on Fridays, said Rick Kammen.
At the prison, Navy Capt. Tom Gresback replied that the operating manual limits shaving to once a week. “Standard operating procedures allow detainees the use of clippers one day each week,” the detention center spokesman said by email Monday.
Guards come and go on nine- to 12-month tours, and practices change for the ex-CIA captives who have spent more than a decade in detention, the last eight years at Guantánamo.
“One of the things that people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder need is consistency,” said Kammen, whose client was subjected to a mock execution and rectal rehydration in CIA custody and has been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD. “As long as they’re so damaged, all these little things just get in the way of the relationship.”
In the female guard issue, an Army judge, Col. James L. Pohl, has issued a similar restraining order in the Sept. 11 conspiracy case, preventing female guards from touching the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four co-defendants. Those five men are accused of training, financing and otherwise assisting the 19 hijackers in the terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and at a Pennsylvania field.
Pohl filed a notice his case Monday that a complaint had also been filed against him, according to a 9/11 case defense attorney, Air Force Capt. Michael Schwartz.
Pohl hadn’t seen the complaint, according to the notice, but said it was “filed by … female guards in regard to [the Commission’s] interim order, AE254JJ.”
Prison spokesmen provided no details on the complaint filed under the military’s Equal Opportunity program, whose motto is “Treating People with Dignity and Respect.”
Reporters arriving for this week’s war court session Sunday found a How-To brochure with the contact information of a newly assigned Air Force non-commissioned officer responsible for receiving such complaints posted on a bulletin board inside the reporters’ work room.
It provided email and phone contacts for the prison’s Equal Opportunity Manager, along with her photograph and the slogan: “Equal Opportunity: ‘A First Resource … Not a Last Resort.’”
Waits said that he was notified on Friday by the chief of the Navy/Marine Corps judiciary, a female officer, that the complaint was filed at the U.S. Southern Command, where Marine Gen. John F. Kelly has oversight of the prison. It was unclear whether Kelly would decide the sexual-discrimination complaint.
The prison had no comment on the complaints. But a military official who was not authorized to be identified said the women had done it through the detention center’s Equal Opportunity office.
At the Pentagon Tuesday, a spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, said Tuesday that Southcom and the different military services were handling the complaint — not the Defense Department’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, as one news agency had reported.
“The Department encourages resolution of workplace disputes and allegations of discrimination at the lowest level using the chain-of-command,” Christensen said by email from the Pentagon.
That would suggest it was being looked at by the U.S. Army, Pohl’s service, and Navy, Waits’. A next step could involves the military’s Inspectors General.
Waits, like Pohl, said he had not seen the complaint. He said in court Monday that he did not believe it disqualified him from hearing the prosecution’s challenge to his no-touch order later this week.
“This was a lawful judicial order by a qualified and properly detailed military judge to this commission,” he said, declining to recuse himself. “Furthermore, I am not aware of any administrative equal opportunity grievance procedure that affords a person a cognizable avenue to challenge a judicial ruling or order such as this.”
“I have not seen the complaint. All I have been told is that it is an equal opportunity complaint related to the commission’s temporary order that women guards shall not have physical contact with the accused. And, again, that order only relates to movements to and from meetings with attorneys and to and from this courthouse.
“This narrowly tailored order, again, is for the sole purpose of maintaining the forward progression of this commission related to this motion and other proceedings of this commission.
“This was a lawful judicial order by a qualified and properly detailed military judge to this commission. It goes without saying that rulings and orders of judges in the course of litigation never makes everyone happy, be it parties, victims, or other entities or persons collaterally affected by rulings of judicial bodies. By its nature, the outcome of litigation is that some people’s positions are advanced and others are not. In this instance, one or more women guards assigned to the Joint Task Force apparently believe that their interests have been harmed or set back in some way. This is not a novel phenomenon for me or any other judge.
“Furthermore, I am not aware of any administrative equal opportunity grievance procedure that affords a person a cognizable avenue to challenge a judicial ruling or order such as this.”
Tradition of Abducting the Bride for Marriage and Polygamy in Decline in J&K
January 28, 2015
Marriage patterns are changing among the tribal Gujjars and Bakerwals in Jammu and Kashmir.
The two tribal communities now prefer marriages that are simple and less expensive; and the customs of abducting the bride for marriage and polygamy are also in decline among the Gujjars.
These are the findings of a study by the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation which was released on Sunday. However, the study also said that among the Gujjars it is still not permissible for anyone to remain a bachelor or a spinster.
Unlike the Kashmiris, who are known for lavish marriage ceremonies, nomadic tribe of Gujjars and Bakerwals spend just Rs 50,000 on a marriage.
According to the study: “Eighty-eight per cent of nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir spend up to Rs 50,000 on a marriage ceremony.”
“In our research we have found that in this (Rs 50,000) budget Gujjars organise all social rituals and host three dinners or lunch for relatives and friends on Teel, Nehari and Meeal, the main rituals of tribal marriage,” the study said.
The rest of 12 per cent among the nomads spend up to Rs 1 lakh on a wedding and they call it as a “Bado Biya” or the grand marriage.
Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation secretary, Javaid Rahi - who also holds a senior position in the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages - said around 100 families of the nomad families living in different parts of the state were taken as sample.
He said that given the affluence of a section of Gujjars and Bakerwals in recent years, the foundation had expected a different result.
“We conducted the research with the aim to see whether changes are taking place in the social outlook of the tribals and whether they are moving towards modernity. The study of marriage pattern among the Gujjars helps us to understand the community’s outlook,” Rahi said.
Rahi, however, said the Kadhu custom - abducting a girl with her consent for marriage - is still prevalent among a section of Gujjars.
“About five to 10 per cent Gujjars still favour Kadhu custom and they consider it as a matter of heroism and valour to marry a woman of choice. Kadhu custom is also invoked in cases of abduction of married women by the tribals for marriage,” he said.
“But, it is prevalent in small scale.”
On polygamy, Rahi said 62 per cent of nomads favour marrying two women and others favour marrying more than two.
However, he said, polygamy is on decline among the Gujjars. They also marry off their children at a younger age and mostly marry within the relations, Rahi added.
Mother of Japanese captive begs PM to save son held by Islamic State
January 28, 2015
(Reuters) - The mother of Islamic State captive Kenji Goto appealed for his life on Wednesday after a new video appeared to show the Japanese journalist saying he had 24 hours to live unless Jordan released a would-be suicide bomber.
The voice on the video added that another hostage, Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh, had a shorter time to live. Japan confirmed the existence of the video at 11 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Tuesday.
The voice said Goto would be killed unless Jordan freed death row inmate Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman held by Jordan for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing that killed 60 people in Amman.
"Please save Kenji's life. I call on you to work with all your strength in negotiations with the Jordanian government," Goto's mother, Junko Ishido, said in a letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that she read out at a news conference.
"His remaining time is very short ... I beg you to do everything in your power," Ishido said, reiterating that her son was not an enemy of Islam.
Abe said the latest video was "despicable". He called on Jordan to cooperate in working for Goto's quick release, but vowed Tokyo would not give in to terrorism.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said it appeared to show Goto. The voice on the video resembled that of Goto in an earlier video over the weekend which the Japanese and U.S. governments believed was authentic.
If verified, the video would be the third involving 47-year-old Goto, a veteran war reporter.
The hostage issue is the deepest diplomatic crisis Abe - who must tread a fine line between appearing firm but not callous - has faced in just over two years in office.
"While making every effort to contribute proactively to world peace and stability without giving in to terrorism, we will exert all means to prevent terrorism in our country," Abe told parliament's upper house.
PRESSURE MOUNTS ON JORDAN GOVT
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida earlier told reporters that Tokyo was making every effort in close coordination with Jordan to secure the captives' release, but he declined comment on the content of those discussions.
Bassam Al-Manaseer, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Jordan’s lower house of parliament, said in an interview with Bloomberg news agency in Amman that Jordan was in indirect talks with Islamic State to secure the release of Goto and Kasaesbeh.
He said the talks were taking place through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq.
"We hope to hear good news soon," Manaseer was quoted as saying.
Amid a flurry of unconfirmed reports in Japanese media that a swap deal might be in the works, Japanese deputy foreign minister Yasuhide Nakayama told reporters in Amman, where he is anchoring Japan's on-the-ground response, that he had nothing new to say about Goto's status.
"We pray for him and we will never give up," Nakayama said.
Several hundred people, including relatives of the Jordanian pilot, gathered in front of the office of Jordan's prime minister late on Tuesday, urging the authorities to meet the demands of Islamic State and release al–Rishawi to save the young pilot's life.
Kasaesbeh was captured after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against the militants.
Goto went to Syria in late October in order, according to friends and business associates, to seek the release of Haruna Yukawa, his friend and fellow Japanese citizen who was captured in August.
In the first video released last week, a black-clad masked figure with a knife said Goto and Yukawa would be killed within 72 hours if Japan did not pay Islamic State $200 million.
The captor resembled a figure from previous Islamic State videos whose threats have preceded beheadings.
A video on Saturday appeared to show Goto with a picture of a beheaded Yukawa, saying his captors' demands had switched to the release of al-Rishawi.
"Time is now running very short," the latest video said, with an audio track over a still picture that appeared to show Goto holding a picture of the pilot.
Officials involved in the crisis say Tokyo knew for months that Islamic State militants were holding two Japanese men captive, but appeared ill-prepared when the group set a ransom deadline and purportedly killed one of them.
Opposition parties have largely refrained from criticising the government, but its response to the crisis is bound to figure in a coming debate over military policy that could in future allow Japan to offer logistical support for campaigns like the U.S.-led bombings in Syria.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki, Nobuhiro Kubo and Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo, Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Ali Abdelatty and Mostafa Hashem in Cairo, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman; Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Mike Collett-White)
15pc children still out of school in Pak Punjab
January 28, 2015
LAHORE: Despite announcing emergency and massive school enrollment campaign during 2014 still 15 percent of Punjab’s children aged 6-16 still remain out of school whereas the remaining 85% are enrolled in the 6-16 age bracket, and the percentage has improved since last year (84%).
These findings were made public in the report ASER Survey 2014 launched on Tuesday. Minister for Education Punjab Rana Mashood, Chairperson Idara Taleem o Agahi (ITA) Dr Narmeen Hameed, General Secretary Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) I.A Rehman, Chairman Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) Dr. Nizam u din were present on occasion. The ASER 2014 survey has been conducted by 10,000 volunteers managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) along with many key civil society /semi autonomous that include the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD), NRSP and several civil society organizations across Punjab.
The ASER survey rural findings have been based on the information of 54,365 children of age 3 to 16 years (including 44 per cent girls) by 10,000 volunteer citizens, who personally visited 19,888 households in 997 villages. For the year 2014, the ASER rural survey has been conducted in 35 rural districts and 7 urban administrative areas in the Punjab, wherein 5-16 year age cohort 39,107 children were tested for English, Language (Urdu), and Arithmetic competencies.
The report states that the private sector is performing better than the government sector as far as the learning levels of children are concerned. The survey reveals a clear- urban-rural divide, whereby urban areas perform better in terms of access (92% children in schools vs. 85% in rural areas) and infrastructure facilities. This year ASER surveyed, 7 urban districts across Punjab including Lahore, Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi. An interesting trend has been observed this year as reflected by ASER Findings.
ASER Punjab 2014 results illustrate a considerable number of children going to non-state schools this year compared to public schools. 37% children of age 6-16 are enrolled in non-state schools in 2014 while last year the percentage was 36%.
According to the report, student competencies in learning English, Arithmetic, and Language are deplorable i.e. 37% of the children from Class V cannot read Class II level text in Urdu. In English, only 57% of the surveyed Class V students could read sentences which should ideally be read by students from the second grade. A similar trend has been observed in Arithmetic capabilities of children where only 51% of class V children were able do a two-digit division respectively, something that is expected in second grade curriculum.
The ASER Survey also has identified that children enrolled in private schools are performing better compared to those studying in government schools; 68% children enrolled in Class-V in private schools were able to read a story in Urdu compared to 60% Class V students studying at government schools.
The difference in learning levels is starker for English, where 63% Grade V could read English Class II level sentences compared to only 54% public sector students! For arithmetic, 55% children enrolled in class V and going to private school can do 2-digit division as compared to 48% government school children enrolled in class V.
Further, the survey explains that boys are outperforming girls in literacy and numeracy skills in rural Punjab. As many as 55% of boys were found able to read at least sentences in Urdu as compared to 52% girls. For Arithmetic, 54% of Class V boys were able to do Class II level subtraction as compared to only 50% Class V girls. In addition to the assessment of children, the report also highlights school functioning across every district in Punjab. The ASER rural survey informs that over all teachers’ attendance in government schools and private schools both stood at 93% on the day of the survey. Government teachers were reported to have better qualifications at graduate levels; for example, 58% teachers in private schools are graduates in comparison to 74% in government schools, however the reverse is the case for MA/MSc or post graduate qualifications, whereby larger percentage of public sector teachers have a higher qualification than private sector counterparts. But then do qualifications matter more than attitudes and pedagogies?
The trends in multi-grade teaching across schools are also mixed. ASER 2014 Punjab rural findings have found 32% of government and 26% of private schools imparting multi-grade teaching at Class II level. On the contrary, at the Class VIII level, multi-grade teaching is more prevalent in the private sector 24% vs. 8% in government schools.
Despite of the fact that only 6% private primary schools receive funds from the government (as compared to 62% public primary schools), the private sector has been reported to be better at school facilities. For example, 90% private primary schools had boundary-walls as compared to 86% government primary schools.
Similarly, with regard to availability of functional toilets, it has been found that the facility was still not available in 8% public and private primary schools in rural Punjab! Nevertheless, if compared with other provinces, Punjab is surely performing better than Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan in terms of all indicators, enrolment, learning levels etc.