PPP’s promise to treat education as national emergency stands broken

PPP had ensured in its 2013 manifesto that when it came to power, it would treat education as a national emergency through effective planning.

Before going into the history of the state of education in Sindh, which is as horrid as one could expect, it seems pertinent to discuss the recent incidents of cheating in Sindh on the occasion of Matric and Intermediate examinations. No heads were turned, nobody was suspended, and nobody had cared to resign over what has been called the uncontrollable intrusion of a cheating mafia in the current examination season. WhatsApp is being blamed for facilitating cheating. At the time when this piece was written, almost 25 cases of cheating had been reported during the Matric exams in Karachi alone. The question is, why were the students allowed to bring cellphones in the examination centres to begin with? Does it mean the students have been taking cellphones to classes as well? What had made the invigilators so lenient that they would go as far as overlooking blatant cheating, as was shown on different new channels? It is not the first time that cheating has been reported in Sindh examinations. The cheating Mafia, like many other mafias running wild in Karachi, had never been apprehended. It is improbable to think that cheating on such a large scale could have taken place without the assistance of the concerned education board. Why would students indulge in cheating if the education system was productive and discouraged any such practice?

The sixth edition of the Annual State of Education Report (ASER), released last year presented shocking statistics about the education sector of Sindh.

In the year 2015-16, almost 24 percent of Sindh’s children aged between 6 and 16 were out of school. Of the remaining 76 per cent, 55 percent of Class-V students could not read Class II level Urdu text and only 24 percent could comprehend written English.
On the infrastructural side, the situation was just as bleak. Fifty-two percent public and forty percent private primary schools of rural Sindh did not have functional bathrooms. Forty-one percent of government primary school did not have boundary walls.
The ratio of out-of-school children stood at 27 percent, while 18 percent children had never been to school, and the dropout rate was six per cent.
The survey indicated that students in private schools were performing better than those studying in public schools.
Education, unfortunately, was never given its rightful place in Pakistan by the leaders in power. In a 1950 census, the total literacy rate of India was 20 percent, and Pakistan’s was 14 percent. However, in 1912, the literacy rate of India reached 75 percent while in Pakistan it could barely reach 50 percent.

The 2015 Education Funding Agency Development Index ranks Pakistan at 106 out of 113 countries.

In Sindh, Thatta is said to be the worst performing district, mainly due to a low retention rate.

There are over 40,000 ghost teachers and 5,229 ghost schools in Sindh, despite the fact that the government had allocated Rs 145.02 billion for education in 2016.

In another survey conducted by Alif Ailaan, it was reported that out of 12 million children, between the age of 5 and 6, 6.7 million are out of school in Sindh. Over 52% of out-of-school children were girls. Fifty percent of women in Sindh, according to the report, had never been to school.
One of the reasons given for this alarming dropout in net enrolment was the dearth of government schools at the middle and high school level. Out of 46, 039 government schools in Sindh, 91 percent were primary schools and only four percent were high schools. Twenty-seven percent schools had only one classroom. Thirteen percent teachers never attended school to teach, while 47 percent government primary schools were single teacher schools.

Sindh Education Minister Jam Mehtab Hussain Dehar had the usual answer, “We are doing our best,” to Truth Tracker’s query about PPP’s effort to restore and revamp the education sector of Sindh. When his attention was turned to the cheating mafia functioning without restraint in Sindh, he said that his government would do everything possible to curb the use of unfair means in exams.

Nusrat Sahar Abbasi, Member of Sindh Assembly from PML-F, told Truth Tacker that the entire education sector of Sindh is deteriorating. Referring to cheating in the Matric and Intermediate exams in Sindh she said that from Karachi to Kashmore, cheating happens in every city, district, and Taluka.

“It is a recurring phenomenon. Every year, the cheating mafia gets active, the entire state machinery from police to commissioner to the top officials of education boards to the bureaucracy, all are participants in this heinous crime,” Abbasi said.

She said that the Zardari-led government in Sindh was only capable of corruption in the name of governance. She lamented that our future generation is being deliberately ruined.

“Blaming India for cheating is perhaps the most ludicrous statement coming from the Sindh Education and Literacy Minister Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar,” Abbasi said.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader, Faisal Vawda, was equally frustrated with the situation of education in Sindh and said that the government had decided to ruin the new generation. He told Truth Tracker that one of the principals of a college had run away after gathering examination fees from the students. “The poor students were unable to sit for their exams,” he said. He further added that after the 18th Amendment it seems each province has become a separate state. “The federal government,” he argued, “did not intervene in the governance issues confronting provinces.”

“Four things are imperative for a nation to survive: Justice, governance, education and health care system. A country lacking any of these would end up in a mess just as we are heading for one,” Vawda said.

Independent View:
Yasmeen Aftab, lawyer, academic and political analyst, gave a detailed analysis of Pakistan’s education system. She said:

“Where is the enforcement of Article 25-A of Constitution of Pakistan for the provision of free and compulsory education for children aged 5 to 16-year-old children?”

She said that education had never been the priority of any government. “With the arrival of private schools,” she added, “the government became more complacent.” Further elaborating, she said that the education sector faced various challenges such as lack of experts, institutional capacity, lack of national cohesion, the absence of standards for textbook development and quality assurance.

“It may not be possible for the government at the moment to implement a uniform education system in the country, but a uniform curriculum can be introduced in educational institutes. This will provide equal opportunity to the students of rural areas to compete with students from urban areas in the job market.”

She concluded her discussion by saying: “All other points stated above need focused attention, correction, and implementation.”

From the above analysis and discourse, it is fairly visible that the PPP government has failed in saving the education system from crumbling under the weight of its bad governance and lack of political will.

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