Govt will give priority to education sector in Balochistan – NP


PML-N underway

 Note: PML-N is sharing the coalition government in Balochistan therefore TT has used PML’s symbol.

Promise

In the run-up to the May 11 general election, the incumbent ruling party in Balochistan province – National Party (NP) – promised that if people voted NP to power, it would increasing education funding in the province.

Unveiling the NP manifesto at Quetta Press Club ahead of the May 11 general election; the incumbent Chief Minister of Balochistan, Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, said the NP government would give priority to the education sector to address the issues of ignorance and illiteracy. The head of the NP termed both illiteracy and ignorance as the prime causes of prevailing underdevelopment and poverty in Balochistan province.

Background

Secretary of Information for the National Party, Jan Mohammad Buledi, said regimes in the past have ignored the education sector. The province lacks high schools. Students cannot pursue further studies after completing primary and middle school, said Buledi.

Giving an example, Buledi said that in Awaran district there are 162 boys’ primary schools with 6,613 students currently enrolled. However, there are only 13 middle schools schools for boys, and those are unable to accommodate the large number of students graduating from primary schools in the district. “This is the situation almost in every district of the province,” Buledi told Truth Tracker.

In the same manner, he said, a small number of students graduating from middle school – due to lack of transport and boarding facilities –  have to walk for tens of kilometers daily to attend high school. The spokesman said that, for the youth in Baluchistan, going to college or university is literally a dream.

 The details compiled by the Balochistan Education Management Information System (BEMIS) – a body responsible for compiling annual statistical profiles of enrolled students and the strength of teaching staff in educational institutions  – paint a grim educational landscape.

Plan

According to the spokesman the government would establish about 300 new primary schools and upgrade the same number of primary schools to middle schools in the current year.

The “Government wants to increase the female literacy and reduce the dropout rate of children from schools,” Buledi said.

Besides ensuring transport and boarding facilities to both male and female students across the province, the spokesman said the government wanted to establish three new medical colleges and upgrade the existing medical and agriculture colleges each to the university level.

To address the teachers’ lack of capacity, the government has planned to launch an extensive teachers’ training program beginning in the next fiscal year.

On the fair utilization of funds allocated for the education sector in the budget, Buledi said anti-corruption agencies will be given broad authority to control the misappropriation of public funds.

Tracking

The National Party – currently heading the coalition government in Balochistan – has substantially increased funding for the education sector to Rs. 34.89 billion in the provincial budget for 2013-2014. The government has allocated Rs. 12.89 billion additional education funds over previous funding of 22 billion.

A senior official in the Education Department, however, disagreed with the government claims reported in media that additional funds will improve the education sector.

“Education will get Rs. 12.89 billion additional funding this year, which will be easily consumed by the rising cost of construction, transportation, utility bills and the rise in salaries of teachers and administrative staff,” the official, who chose to remain unnamed, told Truth Tracker. Nothing or very little will be left for launching any new initiate in education sector, adds the official.   

He said the decade-long insurgency had severely affected the education sector.

“Rampant corruption, teachers absenteeism, brain drain of competent teachers due to fear of targeted killings, increasing ghost schools, and massive students dropouts are some of the major challenges the new government is facing in the education department,” he said.

Opposition Viewpoint

Gul Mohammad Dumar, an Opposition MPA from Jamiat Ulam-e-Islam — Fazalur Rehman (JUI-F), underlining the need for transparent utilization of resources, supports an increase in funding for education.

“Education is perceived to be the most corrupt  sector in Baluchistan … [where] officials and government leaders do not even spare funds allocated for purchasing reading and writing materials for minor students” from their embezzlement, Dumar told Truth Tracker.

Almost all the schools in Bal0chistan are without basic infrastructure. “Funds allocated for the provision of electricity, gas and clean drinking water are embezzled,” says Dumar. “Ghost employees, ghost buildings, incompetent teachers and fake appointments are the serious issues plaguing the sector.”

Dumar stressed the need for getting the department rid of ghost and absentee teachers and ensuring the best infrastructure to every school. He said the opposition would fully support the government in its efforts to bringing improvement in education.

Independent viewpoint

A senior analyst, Mohammad Kazim Mengal, also supported the government pledge to increase funds for education in the provincial annual budget.

“Its (increasing funds for education) a step towards achieving quality education in Balochistan,” Mengal tells TT.

The previous [provincial] governments, he said, continued allocating most funds for roads and the irrigation sectors. “In irrigation and roads, the ministers and higher officials get more commissions and kickbacks in exchange for the awarding of construction contracts,” Mengal believes.

Mengal said funding for education in the provincial budget has always remained low. He said the funding was hardly enough to meet the administration expenditures, including for the salaries of teaching staff.

“The Rs 12 billion increase for the education sector’s budget will enable the department to work out plans aimed at improving quality of education and infrastructure across the province,” he said.

Besides the shortage of funds, poor governance and widespread misappropriation have also contributed to the poor state of education in Balochistan. “The incumbent government has to evolve a two-pronged strategy; focusing on merit and controlling funds’ misappropriation to bring improvement in the education sector in the province,” says Mengal.

Ruling

Truth Tracker concludes, in consideration of the views of independent analysts, that the government promise to increase funds for education in the provincial budget and control misappropriation is underway.

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