Despite 18th Amendment, Sindh Govt Has Failed To Improve Education Sector. Because Ruling Class Isn’t Ready To Give Up On Its Hegemony
Provision of better quality of education in Sindh remains an unfulfilled aspiration despite much trumpeted claims of education being a highly prioritised sector.
The Government of Sindh (GoS) has made significant progress in improving the policy framework for the education sector. In accordance with the 2009 National Education Policy, the GoS passed the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2013, which ensures the right to free education starting from the age of three until the completion of secondary school. Beginning in 2009, the GoS implemented two phases of the Sindh Education Reform Program (SERP I and II), which were designed to increase school participation by improving sector governance, enhancing accountability and strengthening administrative systems in line with the objectives of the 2014-2018 Sindh Education Sector Plan (SESP). A series of ongoing reforms is improving sectoral governance and accountability. Free textbooks and a school stipend are now provided to female students. A merit- based teacher recruitment system has also been introduced. A database of education employees has been developed, and biometric devices are now used to monitor employee attendance.
During the CFY 2018-19, the non-development budget of education has been increased from Rs178.7bn to a total of Rs211bn. Whereas on development side, Rs24.4bn are allocated in ADP 2018-19 as compared to Rs17.1bn in FY 2017-18, for ongoing schemes which would be utilised as per the priorities of the government which includes provision of missing facilities and to improve the quality of education. The Government of Sindh has taken initiative for “Rehabilitation & Expansion of High Priority 4560 Schools” having higher enrolment for carrying out major and minor repair work and provision of missing facilities like boundary wall, washrooms, drinking water, furniture & construction of additional classrooms.
In terms of fiscal commitment Rs202.6bn were allocated in financial year 2017-18 for education sector, including higher education (universities & boards), medical education, special education, and STEVTA of which Rs181.5bn are earmarked for current revenue expenditure, and Rs21.128bn for 461 development schemes, 329 ongoing and 132 new schemes. The allocations for development projects also include funding of Rs2.904bn from foreign funded projects. For the next three years, budgetary allocations for education sector are anticipated to grow up to Rs264.7bn, involving current revenue expenditure of Rs226.7bn, and development expenditure of Rs27bn excluding foreign project assistance.
Despite the government’s efforts, Sindh’s education sector continues to face major challenges, including limited school access and low retention rates. The number of out-of-school children in the primary and secondary school age cohort (ages 6-15) is currently estimated at 6.7mn. Lack of school access and high dropout rates, especially at the primary level, are responsible for Sindh’s large out-of-school population.
Under the 18th Amendment of the Constitution, education was fully devolved to the provinces in 2011. This has added to the responsibilities of the provinces. Article 25-A declares a collective responsibility for education of children, as it uses the term ‘State’ and definition of State, as given in Article 7 of the Constitution, includes Federal Government, Provincial Governments, and Local Governments etc. Hence, Federal Government cannot absolve itself from the financial responsibility for provision of right to education. In addition, Article 25-A of the Constitution calls for the provision of free and compulsory education to all children of the age five to sixteen years, requiring increased education budget allocations. With more resources awarded to the provinces under the National Finance Commission (NFC) award, provincial governments are now required to provide significantly enhanced education budget allocations, to cater to a variety of additional dimensions of educational development.
Despite all that, Sindh’s education system is among the most deficient and backward, reflecting the traditional determination of the feudal ruling elite to preserve its hegemony. Thus, the commitment gap is all too visible in governments’ neglect of public sector schools which serviced middle and lower income groups.
The author is a Development Specialist based in Karachi