Monday, April 16, 2018

Ghost schools of Balochistan

Ghost schools of Balochistan

Ali Jan Maqsood

APRIL 16, 2018

AQ Peeri, a high school student in village Hirronk, describes how his teacher T. Ali enters the class with his cell phone in hand. Fifteen minutes later, he sits down and starts a short conversation with one student. His mobile phone rings again and he goes outside to attend it.

He comes back after five minutes and says: “Ady mai deek be mara nelet. Bare yak gappe Kant. Bachaka soor makane, na ke shuma bazzag bay.” Deek is an informal word in Balochi which is used to replace ‘wife’ (My wife doesn’t give me space. Every day she says do this, do that. Boys, I suggest you to never marry in life.) Just as he uttered these words, his cell phone rang again and this time he didn’t come back to class because the bell rang.

Is this what students get up for so early in the morning? Should teachers be discussing this kind of personal stuff with students? Is it the place of a teacher to use such informal language for his own wife? And they wonder why large number of students quit their studies and look for jobs as garage mechanic, drivers.

One of my classmates, Adil Ali, hails from a rural area. He told me about the state of affairs in his village Khairabad. Classes are scheduled without appointment of teachers. Moreover, when students are promoted to grade 9, they still lack understanding of Science and Arts and more so, there is a lack of prior career counselling.

I met Adil for the first time in college when he told me that he wanted to become an engineer but thought that engineering was available in every field of education. By the time he understood the system, it was too late to make the right choice.

Each year in Turbat, more than 2,000 students arrive from the surrounding countryside to continue their studies. We have no colleges or universities in the rural areas. While they come to the city, their concept of educational institutions is that they are similar to what they have seen in the villages. “There is no reason to attend classes. We will bunk and do self-study. Teachers are lazy, they don’t teach well. They only take salaries.”

Sanaullah Samad, one of my closest colleagues in DELTA, an institute of English, is a resident of village Shapuk. He migrated to Turbat city three years ago with a little brother and three sisters. “It has been three and a half years that the teachers of the high school in Shapuk have stopped showing up on time and the students of the village just come and go every day without gaining anything. I have published more than 100 letters in different newspapers in order to highlight the issue to the higher-ups but no action has been taken yet.”

Take the example of Balgatar, a village located between Turbat and Panjgor districts. It doesn’t have electricity. There is one high school where daily classes are held but the students cheat in exams. Mehr Ali, a cousin of mine, is domiciled there. He has passed his Matric exam. During the exams, he was present in Turbat city. In order to confirm whether the cheating claims were true or not, I asked him to which he replied: “There is no checking of fake students. Just go and give the paper anytime you want.” “Don’t you fail?” “Failing in Balochistan? Don’t joke man.”

Kassak village is nearly 30 km away from Turbat. The village has only one high school in name. The school has three teachers with three classes which are broken down. Interviewing a colleague in Kassak, Shakeel Phullan, I came to know that the teachers don’t attend classes on a regular basis and students often spend time playing cricket in school. “The school was donated by a local leader, Zahoor Ahmed Buledai on behalf of the Balochistan government but the authorities are not giving responses to the schools.” Some of the passionate students of Kassak go to Jussak high school which is 15 km away.

Kallag village perhaps tops the list; nearly roughly 90% of its residents are unaware of the benefits of education. Children are married at the age of 12 to 15 and are asked to work in the farms or as labours. One of my friends in Kallag, Hafeezullah, survived by moving to Turbat city for an education. He was forced by his parents to marry at 14 years, but he refused and settled in Turbat where he is a part-time teacher in an English institution. “My parents scolded me and said that they were not going to arrange my wedding at their own cost.”

The writer is a second year Arts student at Atta Shad Degree College, Turbat and a part time teacher in an English based institution DELTA (Dynamic English Language Teaching Academy).

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