Government Primary school Akhtar Abad, situated in outskirts of Quetta city is derived from all basic necessities. Students coming from far flung areas have to study on cold bear floor of this without boundary school. Threatening messages are written on the broken walls by the inhabitants of this area in order to close the schools. This school was established in 1990s and 45 students are currently enrolled here, which is half of the numbers compares to 3 years back.
Primary government schools are functioning despite infrastructural limitations a number of them portray bleak picture when visited.
Primary School in Akhtar Abad has only two teachers. Teachers of this school claim that they are not receiving any financial assistance including salaries and school expenses by government from last few years. “Though government had sectioned 0.24 Million rupees for the school expenses annually, these funds are not provided in last many years” School teacher told.
Balochistan, though the largest province area – wise and the richest in resources, is the poorest and the most backward province in all aspects, particularly in the educational field and is still being ignored.
According to the Annual report of Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPAM) which is an organization of federal ministry of education and based in Islamabad, aims to collect and consolidate educational statistics and information, “Pakistan Education Statistics 2016-17”, At least 70% of children, between the ages of five and 16, in Balochistan do not go to school.
In numbers More than 1.9 Million children including 927,542 male and 984,128 female are out of schools in Balochistan out of 2.7 million.
Compare to that 57% in FATA are out of schools, followed by 52% in Sindh and 40% in Punjab. KPK has the minimum percentage of out of school children with 34%. The ratio of Out of School children in the country is 44%.
One of the major reasons behind these out of schools children is lack of safe education in province. Government schools in Balochistan are facing not only Security threats from militants, extremists (Both religious and sub nationalists), but also demolished buildings are causing huge fear as these poor structures poses huge threats to the lives of children.
The education budget of Balochistan has substantially increased since the passage of the 7th NFC Award. Between financial years 2010- 11 and 2017-18, the total education budget of Balochistan has nearly tripled from 19.4 billion rupees to 55.3 billion rupees.
The percentage share of education in the total budget of Balochistan increased from 14% in 2012-13 to 18% in 2013-14, indicating the commitment of the new nationalists-led government to improve the state of education in the province. The percentage share of education continued to increase over the following two years, reaching 20% in 2015-16.
Balochistan government had allocated 48 billion rupees for development of education between 2013-14 and 2017-18 compared to 12 billion rupees between 2008-09 and 2012-13.
“A total of 56 billion rupees are allocated for education sector in 2018-19 Annual Budget of Balochistan including 43.9 billion rupees for schools and 8.5 billion for higher education”, Secretary Education Noor Ul Haq Baloch told. Major share of the budget which is around 47 billion rupees is to be spent on non-development sector. On the other hand 9 billion rupees are allocated for development projects including 1.52 rupees for ongoing schemes, he added.
Balochistan has spent over 85% of the total budget allocated for education every year since 2013. However, a significant portion of the development budget for education remained unutilized every year. Of the approximately PKR 38 billion allocated to education in annual development budgets between the years 2013-14 and 2016-17, over PKR 11 billion (30%) could not be utilized. The share of unspent budget was the largest in 2013-14 when about half of the allocated budget couldn’t be spent.
In 2014-15 Balochistan government allocated 40.7 billion rupees for education sector, including 29 billion rupees for non-development and 11.7 or development purposes. Similarly 48 billion rupees for allocated in 2015-16 annual budget where 38 and 10 billion rupees were allocated for non-development and development sector respectively. In 2016-17 Provisional government allocated the same amount for education sector but this time increased the non-development fund to 42 billion rupees and decrease significant amount in development fund by allocating only 6.3 billion rupees. Later in 2017-18 Government of Balochistan allocated 55 billion rupees for education including 45.8 billion for non-development and 9.5 billion for development projects.
Although Balochistan Government has allocated 25% of total budget for education in last 5 years, which consist of 200 billion rupees, including 155 billion rupees for non-development funds (Salaries of employees) and 45 billion for development projects in province. Still more than 7 Thousands schools across the province are shelter less out of 11627 total schools. These schools consists rooms which have no roof over them. Most of these are single room schools with just one teacher at the students’ disposal.
“Students are at the mercy of weather changes and climate hazards. About 6700 school needs rehabilitation. 2500 buildings of schools are considered dangerous”, Education Department Officer told as he asked to remain anonymous.
Many bureaucrats and education officers in Balochistan are under trail with corruption charges in Accountability court. Currently Ex Director Education Qayyom Babayi and Deputy Director Education Nizzam Uddin Mengal are in custody of NAB Balochistan with charges of corruption and illegal appointments of teachers on mass level. Both officers were arrested at beginning of 2016 under charges of corruption through illegal recruitments of teachers. Many other DEO (District education officers are also facing similar charges in Accountability court, which shows how corruption is one of the core cause behind the downfall of education in province.
“This school is running without boundary walls, door, desk and all other basic necessities. I have complained about the lack of all such facilities but nothing has happen as government is not taking any initiative,” Teacher of government primary school Akhtar Abad said.
He further said that still their main worry is that Inhabitants of this area have been threatening them with these walls chalking and demanding to close these schools, Therefore heist compelled to carry a gun with him every day when he comes here and keeps it inside the desk during the school time. These threaten messages come from local Inhabitants who believe receiving education is a sin.
On the other hand Local police claims that they are yet to receive any application regarding such Inhabitants. “Action would be taken against such inhabitants if complaint is lodged”, they told.
“We don’t have facilities as we have to sit on clod floor with broken windows, but the bigger problem is security as we don’t have any gatekeeper”, Student of the school spoke to the author.
“This primary school is not the only organization to face such circumstances. Many other schools in Balochistan are nonfunctional or practically shut down due to threats or being seized by tribal leaders or land grabbers”, an officer of education department told the author on promise of anonymity.
“We face so many difficulties we don’t have any facility here. We feel insecure all the time as there is no one to safeguard us”, Student of class 4 Mohib Khan said. This school faces threats from religious extremists, who demand closer of school and label it a practice of sin.
“Desk not available in the school, not even blackboards, washroom or gas heaters are provided”, another student Hameed Ullah explained worst condition of his school.
In Balochistan 1, 835 Schools are without any building which is more than 15% of total schools in Province.
Government is paying no attention towards the education in province, Local resident father of four children Saeed Ullah says, “You can see rooms without doors and windows, no furniture for the students. In such condition how would teachers teach the students? Inside the rooms threats are written on the walls, where its clearly written, “who goes to school is the greatest sinner”, How can we send our children to school in such situation,” Saeed Ullah Said.
Threat to Akhtar Abad primary school situated not far away from urban Quetta city is not unusual. Although these threats are not coming from any established organization and vary from places to place in shape o land grabbers, religious extremism or in the name of norms, but it is contributing to the ratio Out of school children significantly, still relevant authorities are yet to take any actions to eliminate such threats.
Similarly the building of Government girl’s primary school fatah bagh in Quetta is a symbol of fear for the students. A rented building which is tumbling, More than 300 students are studying in this school. These girls are studying under destroyed roofs, temporary class rooms (having no electricity, Gas), or under open sky in winter or summer.
The school was built in 1988, and is being run on rent, the building has always been in miserable condition from the past and now with Rainfall or snowfall it poses serious threats to the students as its roof of the class room could collapsed any day. In recent past roof of a class fell down with walls, which damaged the other class rooms of the school as well. Also these rooms of schools now can cause damage at any time, which causes huge fear to the students and the teacher.
“In case of rainfall or warm weather we are forced to send students off to home. Often drug addicts are found inside the building of school in morning which scares girls as they arrives school. walls of the backyard are collapsed which gives easy access to these drug addicts, We have requested the higher authority several times to take measures, and high officials visited the schools as well but there has been no initiative taken so far for the betterment of this school, Principal of girls primary school fatah bagh Aamina Parveen Spoke to the Author.
Amina Parveen says, Due to the current crises many parents have taken out their girls from school. “Thepayment of rent of the school building is often delayed, though the monthly rent is just 6 thousand rupees, i receive my payment after two or more years and even then i have to pay half of the mount to the staff of AIG office as bribe. With remaining amount it’s not possible for me to reconstruct the building”, Owner of the building says while speaking to the author. For the future of these students i am willing to sell this building on a cheap rate but only if the government takes interest in the favor of these students, she added.
“120 Government Schools in Balochistan are functioning in rented buildings. Though a hefty amount is allocated for these schools, lengthy procedures in payments has been a serious issue”, Finance department officer told on promise of anonymity.
It’s not only the damaged buildings which is causing insecurities among students, A rare example of Government lack of interest in schools is government girls middle school situated in pashtoon abad of Quetta.
This girls middle school poses huge danger to more than 200 girls studying in the school. It’s not the building but an electricity Transformer which is installed within school. Wires of the transformer laying on floor. Many incidents for fire eruption has been reported in transformer of this school which caused fear among the students, teachers and parents.
“Several requests made to the Department of WASA and WAPDA to remove this transformer and placing it to another area, even with the approval of transfer by the concern authority the transformer hasn’t been taken to another place. Wires of the transformer laying on floor everywhere, sometimes we find students sitting on them, as it is very difficult for the avoid these wires all the time. In case of rain electricity current transfers into the earth and it forces us to close school”, Principal of Girls middle school Pashton abad Mrs Safina spoke to the author. Parents are also reluctant to send their daughters to the schools. It is a matter of concern and government needs to take measures so that incidents could be avoided, she added.
On inquiry Spokesperson of Quetta Electric supply Company (QESCO) Afzal Baloch told that the shifting a transformer to another suitable can be time consuming. “Replacement of Transformer to another place will be carried after the survey as quickly as possible”, he told.
Though Phenomenon of not sending girls to schools by parents in the province is perishing with the passage of time but still enrollment ratio of girls in school (urban and rural areas) is disappointing in recent past years.
According to the Balochistan Education report of 2017, 229,960 girls are enrolled in government schools including 165,869 girls in primary schools, 44,076 in Middle and 20,015 in High schools.
Compare to that in 2013, 303,549 girls were enrolled in schools, 308,248 in 2014, 284,159 in 2015 and 236,889 in 2016. This shows a drastic decrease in numbers of girls’ enrollment in schools in last 5 years.
There is a massive imbalance between the provision of primary and post primary schools across the province. Over 80% of all government schools are at the primary level only, with enrolment in government girls high schools as low as in the hundreds in some districts.
On the other hand, Balochistan Government is convinced that Government is taking all the possible measures to provide quality education with safe environment.
“We have Imposed Educational emergency in Balochistan which shows our positive intent towards education sector. Better results will be visible in education sector with effective reforms”, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Said while chairing a meeting on educational development.
He further said that Balochistan has been utilizing all resources to improve literacy rate and Educational standards. It is time that Teachers play a responsible role with Sincerity and dedication to pull out weaknesses for making Balochistan an educated province.
According to Secretary Education of Balochistan Noor Ul Haq Baloch, Provisional government has initiated a special program to induct out of school children in educational institutes. During this program 12 thousand out of school children (Age 9 to 13)were inducted in schools in last of 3 years. “More than 1.1 million children are out of schools in Balochistan presently, on the other hand 1 million children are enrolled in schools at the moment”, Secretary Education told.
He claimed that Balochistan government has allocated more than 7 Billion rupees for the development of education sector and insisted that these measures will help to overcome the alarming numbers of out of school children.
Pictures credit: Asim Ahmed Khan
Asim Ahmed Khan is a Quetta based journalist and former reporter of Dawn, He tweets at @AsimKhanjourno
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Daily Balochistan Express point-of-view