The Predicament Of Educational Reforms In Balochistan
A recent report issued by Alif Ailaan has affirmed that the government of Balochistan has devoted time and resources for education in a number of projects since 2013. Despite the educational emergency in the province, the progress on the ground is practically nil. The students are not getting results from educational emergency and structural reforms.
The predicament of educational reforms is distressing the whole society. This lack of performance in the education sector is mushrooming into dangerous tendency. As children are robbed of education and youth are deprived of employment prospects, they will eventually pick violence and crime as a mean to meet their ends. The youth in Balochistan would prefer to get involved in smuggling rather than remain unemployed.
Prospects of schooling are so bleak in Balochistan that high school students would abandon education to pursue a career in smuggling of POL or vehicles. They get additional inspiration when smugglers kill a servant of state in broad daylight in Quetta and get royal reception after getting bail. The martyred customs officer is reckoned as a fool for standing against criminals and his killers are idolised for going scot-free without a hassle.
Apart from lack of education, one of the major reasons behind the current state of affairs is the lack of strong social fabric that may guide the youth in the right direction. Dreadful vested interests of political elites, tribal leaders and non-state actors have ominously eroded the resolve for a constructive society. Along with a lack of political will of the federal parties, the stakeholders in Balochistan are also not keen to mend the society.
Over the years many factors have been associated with the sluggish performance in the education sector. An analysis of the system reveals youth population, mineral resources and the coastal line as few of its major strengths to improve the overall situation in the province. The analysis further identifies inadequate population per square kilometre (only 19 persons), most of whom are living below the poverty line. Lack of infrastructure, untapped or underutilised resources and the region’s internal conflict-ridden history have been identified as other key weaknesses.
Reports indicate that 70 per cent of the people in Balochistan are not in a position to give their children (quality) education. The situation is further jeopardised by the shortfall of good teachers in rural areas. Mainly at the primary level, school dropouts are very high. From primary to middle level, the conversion rate is a meagre 23 per cent. At secondary level, for age groups 14 to 15, the net enrolment ratio decreases to 14 per cent and for age groups 13 to 14 its 6 per cent only.
Annual Status of Education Report indicates that students who have even passed 5th grade have difficulty in reading simple sentences in Urdu or solving simple arithmetic operations. The report further found that 45 per cent of students quit school before completing matriculation. According to the National Education Management System, around 66 per cent girls of primary school age are out of school while the overall enrolment ratio is only 47per cent. More surprisingly, in Balochistan, out of 13,000 more than 5,000 government-run primary schools have only one teacher.
According to a latest survey of education department in Balochistan, there are 3,500 ghost schools in the province that open only during examinations. The teachers in these schools draw millions of rupees in salaries and yet do not bother to show up to teach.
The selection of these teachers further complicates the situation on ground. Students who have hardly managed to pass their examinations are employed on the basis of effective political connections rather than on merit. The political interference does not stop here. Teachers are transferred due to partisan enmities or aversions between the district administrators and some teachers. This can be demotivating for teachers who have taught in a particular school or area and are well-informed about student’s learning preferences. Thus, there is not just a shortage of quality teacher but qualified teachers are swapped with less competent ones.
The current government has allocated a record number of projects for the education sector, but like the previous initiatives, they are bound to fail. This failure will come due to lack of political will and motivation for the rulers to bring in a sustainable change in the education system.
To put my claim in perspective, I would wish to share an incident that happened recently. On September 6, I was invited to an event to speak about the Kashmir issue. We had a very thoughtful and enlightening discourse. Then the advisor of chief minister on education was invited to express his (introspective) views on the topic. Sadly his speech turned out to be a comic relief for the audience as it failed to make sense to them. The advisor had to end his speech abruptly to avoid any further embarrassment and left the venue before the closing. His selection as advisor for education implies the sincerity of this government towards progression of education and scholarship in Balochistan.
In theory if a regime wants to ensure their permanence, the first thing they relegate is the educational system. The fact that despotism depends on dogmatism cannot be disregarded. The scarcity of mindfulness and scholarship, and manifestation of ignorance in Balochistan exhibits itself in vile practices such as hero-worshipping the alleged killer of the customs officer.
One must understand that pumping money in a system will not guarantee prosperity as long as the society is run by patronage, greed, deceit, bribery, vice and incompetency. Prosperous nations are made with the true spirit of progress and the prerequisite for this journey is a well-developed educational system that runs on merit. A sincere educated society will learn to fight injustices of all kinds, may it be killing of a civil servant or appointment of an unschooled advisor for education. Sadly, the people of Balochistan are still experiencing a primitive society where power and money supersedes all other virtues.
We are bound to fail as long as we try to create an educated Balochistan under the leadership of those people that despise education. This paradox is resulting in unsuccessful and unproductive educational reforms. The need of the hour is a gradual restructuring of the society based on prevalent social norms and values such as hard work, righteousness, transparency, accountability, responsibility, obligation, integrity,loyalty, magnanimity, and scholarship.
The author is an Assistant Professor at University of Balochistan. He has done his PhD in Social Marketing from University of Hertfordshire UK. He can be reached at Twitter @sonybaloch.