The Dismal State Of Education In Balochistan Demands Urgent Attention From Authorities
Amidst the commotion, cacophony and deafening noise of vehicles on the Makran Coastal Highway (M8), the house of Muhammad Kharim Baloch stands. Muhammad Kharim, a farmer by profession, hails from the village of Kikkin, Turbat and is a father of four children, all out of school.
Kharim remembers how the sight of M8 being paved, and later brimming with traffic, gave him hope that his dream of marrying off his elder daughter and of sending his other children to school would finally come true. The new connectedness of the village would mean that essential facilities for education and communication would be built there. But as time elapsed, not a single school was built and Kharim’s dream of giving basic education to his children shattered.
Kharim’s village, like other villages on M8 – Hirronk, Kissak, Shahrak, Shapuk, Sammi, Karki, Dander and Kohlwa – face a plethora of both social and political issues. But it is the absence of schools which make their misery worst.
“There are hundreds of thousands of children who are out of school either because the schools are very far or their villages don’t have schools at all,” says Muhammad Karim Baloch, despondently.
Constituting 44 percent of the total land area of the country and having a total population less than that of Karachi, Balochistan province has a large number of out-of-school children. The province houses a bulk of non-functional schools or schools without boundary walls, potable water, permanent buildings, toilets and electricity. In fact, very recently, Balochistan was declared home to over 1 million out-of-school children: 78 percent of girls and 67 percent of boys of the province don’t go to school.
216 non-functional schools exist in the province, as per reports of Alif Ailaan, an NGO working for the promotion of education. As no official data is available, these are only guesstimates. Awaran district alone has 192 closed schools as identified recently by the Balochistan Education System —a campaign launched by locals on October 23, 2019.
“Awaran is the most unfortunate and ill-fated district of the province,” says Mehmood, a student of Balochistan University, Quetta, from Awaran. “It was ranked the worst performing district of the country recently. It has few educated people, few functioning schools, and a very small number of students who opt for higher studies.” The sadness in Mehmood’s voice is palpable. Districts like Awaran, Washuk, Qilla Abdullah etc. house a 30 percent population of out-of-school children, aged 6 to 16.
Alif Ailaan’s report on education in Balochistan discloses that 11,627 primary schools are registered in Balochistan, of which 1,271 and 947 are middle and high schools respectively. The report further reveals that, on average, a child has to travel a distance of 30 kilometers to reach a primary school. In order to go to a middle school, the child has to travel 270 km, whereas to reach a high school, he has to travel an unbelievable distance of 370 km. With a poverty-stricken population and a large number of out-of-school children, isn’t it high time the province’s education sector is paid heed to before it is too late?
The 2019 Annual Status of Educational Report (ASER-Pakistan), a citizen-led, household-based survey, divulges that 30 percent of the children were reported to be away from primary schools, an increase from the previous year’s percentage (28 percent). The report also notes that 76 percent of primary schools in Balochistan have no access to drinking water, 85 percent of schools are without toilet facilities and 75 percent of schools have no electricity. Over 43 percent of the schools are without boundary walls.
These gut-wrenching facts from the education sector are contrary to the right guaranteed under Article 25-A of the Constitution and the Balochistan Compulsory Education Act 2014, which obligate the federal and provincial governments to provide free and compulsory education to all children from ages 5 to 16 years.
The government needs to do a lot to lift the performance of the education system of the province. Increased funding on the education sector, a check on the teachers’ absenteeism and monthly official visits are some things which the government can start with. Awareness campaigns need to be launched in the areas, particularly the rural areas, to inculcate willingness in parents to send their children to schools. Lastly, broader and deeper educational reforms can help millions of children to get their fundamental Constitutional right to education.