In spite of an increase in the education budget, there are more than 7,000 multigrade (from grades 1 to 5), single-room schools with just a single teacher in Balochistan, the southwestern province of Pakistan.
These schools have no boundary walls and no such thing as individual attention or security.
The coalition government had allocated 24 percent of its budget to education during the financial year 2014-15.
However, the adviser to the Balochistan chief minister of education, Sardar Raza Muhammad Bareech, says more than 75 percent of the education budget was spent on salaries and similar expenses, whereas only 25 percent of the budget was spent on development of the education sector.
The number of government-run primary, middle and high schools has reached around 13,000 with 1.3 million female and male students across the province, lagging behind other provinces in terms of key social indicators.
“Despite the government’s recent movement against out-of-school children, there are still 1.7 million children who are out of school at the moment,” Sardar Bareech informed an all-parties conferences organized by Institute of Social and Policy Sciences in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan.
The Balochistan government has already declared an education emergency in the province and enforced article 25-A of the constitution.
However, a large number of girls and boys who remain out of school give way to serious doubts about the performance of the nationalist-led government in the province.
Sardar Bareech portrays a bleak picture of the state of education, especially regarding female education.
Two out of three girls are out of school in Balochistan, he said, urging the political parties to join hands to strengthen the government for enrollment of out-of-school children.
Political leaders including Awami National Party’s Member of the Provincial Assembly, Zamarak Achakzai, Akhtar Hussain Langove of Balochistan National Party, Dr. Ishaq Baloch of National Party, Maulana Wali Turabi of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Abdul Mateen Akhundzada of Jamaat e Islami, Jaffar Khan Kakar of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and others spoke about the state of education and government schools in the province.
The political leaders were of the view that without education, democracy cannot flourish and Pakistan cannot come to par with the developed world.
They, however, lamented that despite major announcements on part of successive governments and military dictators, the state of education was dismal in Balochistan.
“Our kids must be taught education in their mother language,” demanded Zamarak Achakzai.
Most of the speakers lashed out at the present government for what they consider its failure to develop the curriculum, especially in the aftermath of the historic 18th Amendment that empowers the provinces in this regard.
They were also demanding an end to class education and urged quality education for all.
“Quality education is the right of every child,” Akhtar Hussain Langove said at the APC.
He pointed out that most of the schools were without basic facilities in Quetta’s suburb areas.
Maulana Wali Turabi of JUI thus stated that besides schools, madrasas (religious seminaries) were also delivering their services in terms of promotion of education.
He informed the participants of the APC that there are 1,667 madrasas registered with Wafaq ul Madaris in Balochistan.
“You have to support the madrasas, too,” Turabi urged the chief minister’s adviser, referring to the role of seminaries in the province.
According to the provincial industries department in Balochistan, the number of registered madrasas is more than 2,000, whereas, the number of those not registered is also in the thousands in the province.
The political leaders painted a bleak picture of the state of government-run schools in rural Balochistan and urged the government to bring reforms to the education sector.
Some speakers term poverty, unemployment and the law and order situation as reasons for educational backwardness and the low literacy rate.
“Children of poor and marginalized families are deprived of education,” Mateen Akhundzada of JI told the participants.
The dropout rate is too high in schools in Balochistan.
Out of 1.3 million children, only around 50,000 students appear in metric examinations every year.
“Now we have no clue where these kids go after abandoning their education,” said Sardar Bareech.
He reiterates that nearly half of Balochistan is deprived of schools, as the province has about 22,000 settlements per the 1998 census and the number of schools is currently about 13,000.
Delays in census-taking have also caused problems for the government in terms of framing policies.
The government has no accurate data about the population of Balochistan, unemployment or poverty.
The speakers also emphasized the need to increase the capacity of teachers to improve the quality of education.
The Institute of Social and Policy Sciences also proposed that the budget for the training teachers before and after recruitments should be increased.
The political parties criticized increasing fees of private schools and demanded checks and balances on them.
However, Jaffar Khan Kakar of PTI intervened and said that despite all odds the private schools in Balochistan are imparting quality education when compared to government-run schools.
The Balochistan government has for the first time introduced appointments of teacher through a national testing service.
Currently, more than 100,000 candidates have applied for 4,300 vacant teacher posts in Balochistan through the service.
“This step of government can be appreciated,” Akhundzada admitted in the APC.
At least transparency was being shown in appointment of teachers, he said.
By Syed Ali Shah, Dawn