Pakistan Peoples Party has promised its voters in the 2013 manifesto that after coming to power, it would raise the adult literacy rate from the current 54 per cent to 85 per cent. This promise was to be implemented at the country level. However, since the PPP could not make government in the Centre, and with the education becoming a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment, tracking the implementation of the promise in Sindh where the PPP is in the government for the last ten years seemed befitting.
As of September 2016, the literacy rate in Sindh was recorded below 50 per cent in rural areas. In 1972 and 1998, it was 30.20 per cent and 45.30 per cent. Similarly, 2013, 2014, and 2015 it was 69, 60, and 56 per cent respectively. The literacy rate dropped by four per cent from 60 to 56 per cent in 2015, as revealed by the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2014-15.
According to the survey, the female literacy rate, in Sindh was 43 per cent compared to 47 per cent of the previous year. Male education in Sindh witnessed a decrease in percentage from 72 per cent to 67 as compared to 2012-13.
According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2016-17, the total number of literacy rate has risen to 73 per cent in Sindh. During Fiscal Year 2017, the Sindh government has allocated Rs 20.07 billion compared to Rs 14.82 billion the previous year, an increase of 35.4 per cent on 172 on-going and 325 new development project for education, which includes Rs 15.14 billion for Education and Literacy, Rs 0.21 billion for Sindh TEVTA and Rs 2.96 billion for Universities and Boards.
All these allocations and improvement in the education sector notwithstanding, the situation on the ground betrays the intentions of the Sindh government. The overall education system reeks of corruption with the result that the province, like anywhere in Pakistan, lacks quality education. Inaccessibility of education to a large segment of the population in Sindh is another factor behind education remaining a dream to many still. Though funds are allocated but rarely are they spent judiciously. Resources dedicated to education are always scarce while the commitment to improve the education sector at the political and administrative level has been missing throughout. Complaints about the absence of clean drinking water, missing washrooms, ghost and non-functional schools have been making rounds with little or no redress.
Truth Tracker talked to the PPP lawmaker and its Deputy Speaker in the Sindh government, Shela Raza to find out reasons behind Sindh’s dismal performance in the education sector and to know if the PPP government had been able to meet the target of 85 per cent adult literacy rate at the fag end of their current year in power.
Conceding that Sindh was still far behind in achieving its education targets, Raza, however, laid the blame on the President Musharraf government for throwing the province backward in education. Going forward, she said, the PPP government had done quite a lot of work in the education sector though, such as she added building new universities, medical colleges, expanding Institute of Business Administration, and making new technical boards and colleges. Talking about what had kept the province from giving each person their right to achieve education, Raza said that because of Sindh government’s funding from the Asian Foundation and the World Bank, with the commitment that these funds would be used at the rural level only, the government, she added, had been held back from engaging qualified teachers.
“Since there were not enough funds, so it was not possible to hire teachers from the urban areas.” Which, said Raza, had affected the quality and quantity of education in rural Sindh.
These agreements, Raza pointed out were made when Arbab Raheem was the Chief Minister Sindh, a reference again to the Musharraf era.
As for the budget, she agreed that not all that is allocated for education is spent on education.
To Raza, the main reason behind illiteracy is poverty and not lack of commitment of the governments. She said, for a poor person feeding his child is more important than sending him/her to school.
“Before we aim at reforming the education sector we should work on eliminating poverty. Our focus should be to make people prosperous enough so that they happily send their children to schools. We need economic policies that open up job opportunities for the people,” Raza said.
Raza admitted that the PPP government could not meet its target of achieving 85 per cent adult literacy rate in Sindh.
Truth Tracker engaged Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf’s lawmaker in the Sindh Assembly, Khurram Sher Zaman. He scoffed at Raza’s remarks and said that the Sindh government had no commitment to provide quality education to the children of Sindh.
“The problem lies with the quality of people entrusted with the task to develop and implement education policies.” He added, “Incompetent and non-committed officers have been hired in the education sector, which has resulted in the ruination of the education sector,” Zaman said.
Mahtab Akbar Rashidi, a member of Sindh Assembly from Pakistan Muslim League (Functional) told Truth Tracker, that the political parties in Pakistan made manifestos only for the consumption of electoral period. She said governments in Pakistan carry out development projects without specified targets. The result was she stated that we found development work continuing from one government to another.
Talking about the adult literacy rate in Sindh Rashidi said that the Sindh government had been non-serious about education. It was, she lamented, business as usual, even though many projects about education and vocational training had been initiated.
“Even if 22 per cent of the allocated funds on education is spent this fiscal year, we could consider it an achievement. Otherwise, what good could we expect in the coming year.”
Dr Saeed Shafqat, Professor and Director, Centre for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG), Forman Christian University, gave following analysis on education:
“A new trend has emerged after the 2013 general elections where the governments are more interested in investing in infrastructure development than spending on social sector reforms such as education. Though provinces have increased spending on education, they have failed to bring quality in the system. In Sindh, in spite of the fact that Sindh Assembly has been actively making new legislations, and many donor agencies have been spending in the education sector, the provincial government has failed to provide quality education,” said Shafqat.
He argued that to arrest this declining trend in the education sector, it is important that an overarching monitoring body and a commission are established at the federal level to oversees the performance of the Education Boards and Education Foundations in all the provinces.
Shafqat stressed that another area that needs equal importance is teacher management system. In spite of the pay raise, teachers are not happy with the overall work environment in nearly all the provinces. This dissatisfaction ultimately affects their performance. He opined that governments have to co-opt teachers in the development and implementation of education policies.
He suggested that another reason why education shows the dismal result is the disproportionate spending on education vis-à-vis rise in population. We have more children every year, but we are not building as many schools to educate them.
“It is the responsibility of the state to provide free and quality education to its children till the age of 16. The passage of 18th Amendment, after which the weight of social sector management has been thrown on the shoulders of the provincial governments, does not exonerate the state from performing its constitutional obligation concerning education,” he concluded.
The Sindh government has been unable to achieve its target of achieving 85 per cent adult literacy rate.