Education emergency in Balochistan

By: Ali Jan Maqsood

Balochistan, one of Pakistan’s least developed provinces is lagging behind in education. The literacy rate is the lowest, unemployment is at its peak, more than 86% of the people in the province are living life below the poverty-line, healthcare department is at worsening, gender inequality is common, roads are broken and the list goes on.

The root cause of  these all issues is giving less priority to education sector of the province. Taking it from the beginning, Balochistan has a very less number of primary enrollment. According to Alif Ailan, Balochistan’s primary enrollment in 2016-2017 was 488,659_ with 322,790 boys and 165,869 girls.

When it comes to higher studies, only 60, 062 students remain; including 40,047 boys and 20,015 girls. Some of the main causes of a sudden downfall of higher enrollment of students are no basic facilities to the schools and a lack of higher educational opportunities.

In Balochistan, 11,627 primary schools are registered with 12,71 middle schools and 947 higher and secondary schools. Unfortunately, we do not find satisfactory facilities in any of these schools.

With a growing population, we have very few schools in our province which cannot accommodate many of the students lifting them to join workplaces or their ancestral farms.

The Report unveiled that in 2016-2017, 0.63 million children aged 5 to 9 along with 1.26 million children of aged 10 to 16 are away from education.

With so many children as out of schools in this modern world, prosperity can only become a theoretical phenomena.

On the other hand, when we look at the existing schools, they, too, are vociferating for the very basic facilities.

The report of Alif Ailan further disclosed that 80.22% primary, 79.54% middle and 81.84% higher schools of the province are with unsatisfactory buildings. They are on the verge of destruction and can break down anytime.

An earthquake near these schools is likely to snatch so many innocent souls. Even, some schools are as broken that teachers are compel to take the students and continue their classes outside or under the veranda of other classes.

Another 79.69% primary, 66.4% middle and 30.72% high schools are with no electricity. Whereas, in the southern Balochistan most of the months are passed with severe hot weather. From March till November the hotness gets on its peak. The average Celsius in these months is recorded as above 40°.

The report clarified that 71.51% primary, 36.43% middle and 16.79% high schools are with no toilet facilities. It has ultimately resulted in the deprivation of a great many girls from going to schools. Parents fear if emergency appears, where would their daughters go without sanitation facilities. As a result, they feel better in keeping them at homes.

On the other hand, 60.14% primary, 26.9% middle and 11.72% high schools are with no boundary walls. Balochistan is, albeit, contributing a lot to the national economy with its natural resources, but sad to witness, the schools are not even funded to build their boundary walls.

With no boundary walls, we often hear cases of robberies in these schools. Sometimes fans are stolen and other necessary equipment is robbed.

The above mentioned dilemmas have caused multiple schools to be dysfunctional in the province. An estimated amount of 18,00 primary, middle and high state-run schools of the province are reported as nonfunctional which enhances the clouds of worrisome for the poor residents.

Most of the dysfunctional schools are primary because teachers are ghosts. There are an estimated amount of more than 6,000 schools being run with only a single teacher. Whereas, the average is recorded as 120 students per class in these schools.

How can only one teacher manage to handle a primary school with so many students? It directly affects the students. They only come and go without being taught anything for months. And then they quit.

When we come to higher education, the conditions are even challenging. There are only eight (8) universities in the whole province_ with ninth [Gwadar University] under construction. Unluckily, we have not witnessed any satisfactory results from them either.

Dishearteningly, the recent scandal of the oldest University [University of Balochistan] of the province_ where 200 employees of the varsity are alleged to have installed micro cameras in different secret places, after which the footages were used to blackmail and harass the students.

In the varsity students come from far-flung areas  to continue their higher education. But, looking at the current circumstances how come parents let their children, specially daughters in a place where academic records have less come upfront than records of harassment and blackmailing of the students.

In a nutshell, educational challenges, government needs to ensure more and more students are enrolled in primary sector. Teachers must be strictly guided to attend classes, and District Education Officer (DEO) in each district of the province has to be active in maintaining check and balance of the schools.

Females must be highly encouraged to get education. More and more education institutions for girls should be built. Awareness campaigns have to be conducted -specifically in rural areas.

When it comes to higher institutions, different committees must be brought into function (with most girls representatives for females) which should be presenting their reports of the universities in the Assembly on monthly basis.

Balochistan’s education looks forward to hearing reforms from the federal and provincial governments. It is high time the province had been promoted in education sector. Steps are desperately needed at time so that Balochistan contributes enough for the regional prosperity.

Ali Jan Maqsood is a former teacher at DELTA in Turbat and a student of Law at University Law College, Quetta. He tweets at @Alijanmaqsood12

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