🎈More than 5,000 government-run primary schools in Balochistan only consist of a *single teacher and a single room besides lacking basic facilities.*
🎈Out of *1.3 million children in Balochistan, only 50,000 students appear in matriculation examination every year *
🎈1.8 children are still *out of school* in the province, and the *literacy rate has remained stagnant at 39 percent.*
According to Pakistan’s 1998 census, Balochistan has more than 22,000 settlements, but the existing number of government-run schools is 13,000, depriving many children of their basic right to education
Despite the repeated tall claims of Balochistan government of placing a special emphasis on increasing enrollment of children in schools, 1.8 children are still out of school in the province, and the literacy rate has remained stagnant at 39 percent. Education Statistics 2014-2015 launched in February this year by the Ministry of Federal Education’s Academy of Educational Planning and Management estimated that 24.02 million children between the ages of 5-16 were out of school in Pakistan, and Balochistan had the highest percentage of out-of school children at 70 percent. Followed by Sindh at 56 percent and Punjab at 44 percent, it is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that had the lowest percentage of out of school children at 36 percent.
The reason why Balochistan always has the highest proportion of out-of-school children is because Balochistan governments have always neglected the decades-long education crisis in the province, and have never been sincere in efforts to increase enrollment of children. The figure of 1.8 million out-of-school children, as social workers say, is projected to increase in the next year.
It is very important to note that Balochistan has around 13,000 government-run schools, 2,500 of which are for girls. On the contrary, Balochistan is home to more than 10 million people. It does not take rocket science to understand that Balochistan has fewer schools with respect to its population. According to Pakistan’s 1998 census, Balochistan has more than 22,000 settlements, but the existing number of government-run schools is 13,000, depriving many children of their basic right to education.
Punjpai, a sub-tehsil of Quetta district, is reported to have no high school for girls, whereas a high school for boys was established there in 1978. Owing to scarcity of high school for girls, girls in the respective area have been resorting to giving up their education after completion of middle school. “I am the only daughter of my parents who worked their fingers to the bone to get me educated. Despite being poor, my parents had hired a van to pick and drop me from the nearby primary/middle school. My mother used to exclude me from performing household chores on any occasion because she wanted me to only focus on my studies. After middle school I had no option left but to quit my studies,” said a 16-year old local resident of Panjpai.
Shini Kandar, a village in Gwadar district, has one school, a government primary school for girls where boys are also enrolled on account of shortage of boys’ primary schools. In order to pursue their studies, children have no option but to go to schools in the Gwadar city, which is more than six kilometres away from the village. “I am the youngest of all siblings, and all of us have just completed primary education in our village. We could not continue with our education owing to absence of middle/high school in the village. My parents are not rich enough to afford to pay for a private commercial transport,” said a 13-year-old resident of Shini Kandar.
These are two of the thousands of such stories. Sadly, more than 5,000 government-run primary schools in Balochistan only consist of a single teacher and a single room besides lacking basic facilities. Unsurprisingly, the insufficient existing schools have been facing a shortage of free textbooks, teaching staff, and basic facilities such as drinking water, toilets, boundary walls, classrooms, furniture and electricity for many years, but there seems to be no sign of any improvement in this regard. For instance, in early October, last year students of Zamuran, district Kech, protested a sit-in outside the deputy commissioner’s office in Kech against closure of schools, absenteeism of teachers and absence of girls’ schools in seven unions of Zamuran. But they, as expected, found no one who was willing to end their education crisis.
Moreover, the only existing school in Shini Kandar village does not only lack doors, windows and electricity but also drinking water; students are found to bring bottles of water from their houses besides heavy schoolbags. Recently, I read a news item that the Machka Killa Abdullah Primary School, nearly two kilometres east of Quetta-Chaman national highway, has no roof, windows, boundary wall, toilet and clean drinking water facility. Additionally, Students are forced to take classes in the open following the collapse of the school established in 2003.
Balochistan, the least developed and literate province, is in dire need of quality education, but unfortunately, schools that exist are reported to be delivering a low learning outcome. government seems to be paying no attention to the poor learning outcome of government schools in the province, whereas learning levels are better in private schools. According to a survey of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 based on the testing of 60,535 children aged 3-16, 67 percent students of class five are unable to read class two level text in Urdu, and only 28 percent students of class five could read sentences in English. I remember visiting a nearby government school for information on second grade admissions for a relative of mine, and one of the senior teachers whom I have known for around a decade told me to enroll him in a private school due to poor quality education in their government school. Recruitment of teachers is often done on political basis in the province, and teachers lack required training.
In spite of the on-going education crisis, the Balochistan government has allocated a mere 17 percent of the 2016-17 budget outlay for education, increasing one percent from last year’s allocation. Advisor to Balochistan Chief Minister on Information Sardar Raza Muhammad Bureech said that 17 percent of the provincial budget outlay for education is insufficient to get rid of the education crisis even in the next 50 years.
No nation can dream of development and prosperity without education. The Balochistan government should realise the importance of education, and the education budget of the province should be boosted keeping in view the enormity of the crisis. Sincere efforts must be made to bring an end to the education crisis. The federal as well as the Balochistan government should ensure the provision of constitutional rights to children at all costs since Article 25-A of the Constitution states that “the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children aged between 5 and 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
Article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Pakistan is a signatory, states: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.” The fact that out of 1.3 million children in Balochistan, only 50,000 students appear in matriculation examination every year is a matter of huge concern.
The writer is a Turbat-based teacher and a social worker. He can be reached at Monis.firstname.lastname@example.org