For the majority of the young journalists attending the District Media Sensitisation Workshop in Sialkot, it was a unique event on issues surrounding education reporting. The third in a series of such media sensitisation workshops, the Sialkot chapter brought together 25 representatives from print, electronic and social media from around the district. These workshops are a part of Humqadam-SCRP’s efforts of linking ongoing infrastructure improvement in schools with community engagement through the active participation of the district media.
Conducted in a participatory environment, the Workshop created a setting where district journalists, students of Mass Communication from University of Gujrat (Sialkot Campus), members of Humqadam-SCRP’s CCSIs and representatives of the district’s Education Department engaged in a candid conversation on the state of education reporting in Sialkot and the role the media can play in highlighting the importance of improving the environment in public schools. This culminated in an agreement across the board that informing communities about their role in the development of schools through the media can result in wider ownership of education can catalyse the ongoing efforts for improving the state of schools in Sialkot District.
Usman Ghani Butt from FM 101 said, “We [the media] need to strengthen bonds between the government and the communities, and the media can play a crucial role in providing a platform. This [workshop] is a learning experience for us. The media tends to focus on the sensational, and we can now see how we can go beyond this to bring essential in-depth conversations on media.”
To remove the disconnect between the media, the community and the government in the district, an Information Sharing Session was organised, where the EDO (Education) Mr. Muhammad Farooq shared progress of school infrastructure development in the district. Commenting on the distance between the media and the representatives of the School Education Department at the district-level, he acknowledged that it cultivates misunderstandings that lead to misrepresentation of ongoing efforts in news reports. Mr. Muhammad Farooq invited the media to reach out to him directly, and promised cooperation and sharing of information from his department.
The EDO (Education) also lauded Humqadam-SCRP’s school construction work in the district. He said that the quality construction and community participation process of Humqadam-SCRP is enabling a shift in the government’s own approach from quantitative to qualitative. In keeping with the true spirit of Media Sensitisation Workshop, he invited the present media to visit any Humqadam-SCRP school to see first-hand how school environments are being improved.
Humqadam-SCRP is currently constructing nearly 500 new classrooms in 229 schools in all 4 tehsils of District Sialkot, with the active involvement and participation of the schools’ teachers, students and communities. Work at 21 schools has already been completed with children now attending classes in safe, well-lit and comfortable classrooms.
One of these schools is Government Girls Primary School, Ganjianwali Kalan. The school’s head teacher told the gathered participants that they are already seeing impact of the 4 new classrooms on the quality of education.
“There was only one scanty classroom and a ditch for a ground in our school. Humqadam came as a blessing four additional classrooms. Since we’ve moved into these new classrooms, student attendance has gone up 75% and teacher attendance is now 100%,” said Mrs Shahnaz Akhtar.
Echoing the sentiments of the school’s head teacher, CCSI member Bushra Khatoon said that the new classrooms were sending a positive signal to the community and restoring their confidence in the school. The families that had started to pull their girls out of schools because of the dilapidation of classrooms have started to come back in large numbers. This has seen enrolment surge from 140 to 184 in a short period.
Mr. Shakoor Mirza, a senior journalist and social worker appreciated Humqadam-SCRP’s efforts of bring together the different stakeholders in the district for the cause of education. He pointed out the equal participation of people from other walks of life at a media workshop as evidence of the Programme’s inclusive way of work.
Mr. Shakoor Mirza said, “Today’s workshop will give the media a new agenda, which is pro-school, pro-community and, most importantly, pro-children.”