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Education Officials' Degree Pursuit Raises Legal and Ethical Concerns

According to the education department, the government provides allowances for additional qualifications: Rs. 2500 per month for an MPhil and Rs. 10,000 per month for a PhD.
by Rafiullah Khan - 18 May, 2024 1398
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Women officials of various grades in the education department of Swat are pursuing regular degrees while still employed. SDO Charbagh Shahnaz, of the Education Department (Female) in Swat, enrolled in the academic session in 2023. According to information from the University of Swat, MPhil classes are held in the second shift from 1 pm to 4 pm, and Shahnaz attends these classes regularly.

Swat Deputy DOM Fazal Khaliq Khan told TNN that the KP Esta Code clearly outlines the rules regarding obtaining regular education during employment. He stated that if any government employee wants to pursue further regular education, their duty hours and class times must not overlap, as the government pays for their working hours, which cannot be used for personal purposes. 

He emphasized that when he visits schools and finds a teacher with an empty period, he advises them to focus on character development for the students instead of personal activities, as they are being paid for those hours.

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Khan elaborated that pursuing a degree is a personal endeavor, and it is illegal to manage two responsibilities simultaneously—drawing a government salary while attending regular classes. He mentioned that teachers can pursue regular degrees in the second shift after their duty hours, which typically end at 2 pm. They must, however, obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the department. The authority to issue a NOC depends on the scale of the teacher: the District Education Officer can issue NOCs up to the 15th scale, while the relevant higher authorities handle scales 16, 17, and 18, provided there is no overlap in duty and class timings.

For SDOs or Deputy DOs who want to obtain a regular degree, their duty hours from 9 am to 4 pm mean that they can only pursue their degree if there is no overlap in timings, and they must get a NOC from the Secretary of Finance. They are also required to take study leave, during which they receive basic pay and full allowances.

Khan noted that while there are laws in Pakistan, they are sometimes ignored or overlooked, allowing people to act outside legal boundaries. However, when the law is enforced, legal action can be taken. He added that a Distance Certificate is required only if there is no issue of timing, which must be collected through the CNW Department.

When TNN contacted SDO Charbagh Shahnaz, she confirmed that she is pursuing a regular MPhil degree from the University of Swat in the second shift and has obtained the necessary NOC from the DO Female. Shahnaz assured that she had met all legal requirements and had been issued a non-traveling certificate, which is a prerequisite for university admission.

Shahnaz invited the TNN representative to her office to review all records and verify the compliance with legal requirements. However, during the conversation, the representative received a call from a mobile number (03469794544) at 11:60, in which the caller, identified as Shahnaz's brother and a primary school teacher in Charbagh, warned the reporter against contacting Shahnaz in the future.

This raises a question: if Shahnaz is obtaining her degree lawfully, why was such a warning necessary?

Similarly, SDO Khawazakhela is also pursuing a regular MPhil degree. She stated that she had properly applied for the NOC and received a non-traveling certificate. She suggested that inquiries be directed to the DO office or the directorate, where her NOC is documented, even at the secretariat level.

DEO Khawazakhela stated that they uphold the same rules they teach others. She emphasized that she wouldn’t require a teacher to obtain an NOC without doing so herself. When asked if her duty timings and MPhil class timings overlapped, and whether she had taken study leave, she responded, "We have submitted our process; it's up to the directorate to handle study leave. We work until evening and sometimes late into the night, which is often overlooked. Our records are available at the office."

Deputy DO District Swat Zakia Raza is also pursuing a regular MPhil at the University of Swat. She affirmed that she followed proper channels, obtaining a non-traveling certificate and a distance certificate from DO District Swat, and clarified that her absence does not affect children's classes since she is not a classroom teacher.

Despite duty timings coinciding with university classes, two SDOs and one Deputy DO from the Education Department (Female) Swat are enrolled in regular MPhil programs. According to the ESTA code, teachers can pursue second-shift degrees without affecting their duties, which end by 2 pm.

The issue arose when Miss Rehana, a primary school teacher in the Charbagh circle, completed a regular MS Botany degree in the second shift from the University of Swat. SDO Charbagh questioned the legitimacy of Rehana’s degree, writing to the Controller of Examinations on October 17, 2023, noting that Rehana had submitted her MSc Botany degree for service book entry without departmental approval. Rehana explained that she had applied for an NOC but did not receive approval, and after completing her degree, faced verification issues from SDO Charbagh. Rehana has since moved to another circle and prefers not to discuss the matter.

According to the education department, the government provides allowances for additional qualifications: Rs. 2500 per month for an MPhil and Rs. 10,000 per month for a PhD. The finance department processes these allowances after verifying attendance, class timings, university schedules, and other documents from the relevant university and HEC. Those who bypass official procedures cannot claim these benefits.

Data from the Education Department reveals that Swat has 661 girls' schools with 120,133 female students and 3975 female teachers. Each of Swat’s seven tehsils has one SDO. Specifically, Tehsil Babuzai has 136 schools, Kabal has 116, Brikot has 42, Charbagh has 44, Khawazakhela has 81, Matta has 155, and Tehsil Bahrain has 87 schools. If an SDO pursues a degree during duty hours, it could impact numerous schools and students in her circle.

Attempts to contact DO Female Shamim Akhtar for comments were unsuccessful. Repeated phone calls and office visits over a week yielded no response, as she was frequently reported to be in meetings in Peshawar or Islamabad or away on visits.