By Yusra Tariq & Jannat Ali Qamer
“There is no easy access for special persons to the building of schools, colleges, universities, shopping malls and other places. We are going to provide them with special parking lots, easy access to the stores and other buildings as a par to international standard. A new legislation is being introduced to ensure that no building is without ramps. The Government of Punjab is giving Rs 800 stipend per month to the special students and free pick and drop service from home to their institutes”. Chauhdry Muhammad Akhlaq, Minister of Special Education said this during an exclusive interview with The Educationist.
The Educationist: How your Ministry works? What are its main objectives? And what you have achieved so far?
Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq: It is the Ministry of the Special Education for Special persons. There are almost 292 schools and five degree colleges for them in Punjab. All these centres have admitted slow learners, blinds and physically disabled. We have total of 35,000 students in Punjab.
We provide them education with proper training like sports, physiotherapists, physical instructors and everything they need. They are being properly educated, even they have to take exams.
The Educationist: In most of the universities of Pakistan, the reserved quota for special students is only 1%. Are you satisfied with this figure? Do you think there is need of separate university for special students?
Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq: (Firstly he denied the fact that the quota is only 1% then said). I believe this is injustice; reserved quota should be increased. We are also working on establishing separate higher education institutes for the special students, they too have the right of good education system.
The Educationist: Is the ratio between the special students and their teachers is balanced in the government institutes?
Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq: Yes, it is balanced. We have 14,000-15,000 trained teachers and lecturers for the special students and they all are qualified.
The Educationist: Does the govt provide supporting gadgets and helping equipment to special student?
Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq: Yes, we also have different departments like Department of Social Welfare, which is responsible for providing equipment and supporting gadgets like wheelchairs and hearing aid etc. Moreover, the Government of Punjab is giving Rs 800 stipend per month to the special students along with the uniform (three times in a year) and free pick and drop service from home to their institutes. And the students who live out of station are provided with free hostel accommodation and free food. The problem is that there is no awareness about these facilities, especially in the rural areas. However campaigns have been started so that people get to know about all this and get all the advantages provided by the government.
The Educationist: Most of the uneducated people take their disabled children to witch doctors or peers. Do you have any awareness campaign in this regards?
Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq: Normally, I don’t think so that they have been taken to peers or Maulvis because they are disabled by birth. Parents know that those witch doctors cannot treat them. I haven’t got any complaint regarding this issue but we’ll surely add this point to our campaign. You have raised good point.
According to most of the international research, cousin marriage is mainly blamed to be the cause of the increasing ratio of disabled children. If it doesn’t affect the first generation, it may affect second or third generation.
Some of our religious scholars do not accept this fact but the medical research has also proved cousin marriage as the major issue. I even talked on this on the programme of Mazaaq Raat. I got a call from my friend from America who is Ahl e Tashi’i. He said that Hazrat Ali got married to Hazrat Fatima. If that is the reason so it would be forbidden in Islam too. I said that we are discouraging it only, we are not saying that it would get ban. Other friend of mine said that I’ve discussed it to one of the Maulvi, he also said that you should not have said this.
The Educationist: Please tell us about the curriculum prepared for special students. How often you revise their curriculum?
Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq: (“Every Year” , an assistant manager added.) Almost every year, their books are very different. If you want to visit, we have our centers in Johar Town. Their books are totally different from normal students. I can arrange it for you if you want to see them. Have you ever seen those braille books? It has spots over it. (Minister sb has asked all over the Punjab that all the books should be distributed before time, the manager added.)
The Educationist: Our CM (Punjab) Usman Buzdar has been criticized for being inexperienced and undisciplined, what is your stance on this?
Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq: Normally, all the cabinet members like him as our CM is not an ordinary man, he is a qualified lawyer. Obviously, experience comes after doing something. He is being criticized just because of the mindset of the people as they are used to see people like Shahbaz Sharif as the chief minister.
Considering Usman Buzdar Sb, he has only been given few months and he actually is a very honest man. And according to me only two things are important for becoming successful i.e. honesty and commitment. If someone is honest and is committed to his work, he can never fail in his life. If we talk about PM Imran Khan and CM Punjab Usman Buzdar, both are very honest, committed and determined to their work.
The Educationist: You have taken charge of this Ministry in July 2018. What reforms you have introduced and what are your future plans?
Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq: After the General Elections (July) 2018, I was selected for minister in the second lot. I’ve improved many things till now, but still there’s much more to be achieved. The service structure was not good. Funds dispersement was not directly linked with the Punjab government. Regular education office provided them with funds which mostly got delayed. We are introducing a new legislation that structure of any commercial building will not be accepted without ramps. The Educationist: Thank you so much and we pray that you achieve all your goals.
Chaudhry Muhammad Akhlaq: Thank you and thanks to The Educationist for focusing on special students.