The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa(KP) government will establish 200 smart schools in places targeted by bomb blasts, and natural disasters such earthquakes and floods. These claims were made by KP Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education, Muhammad Atif whilst talking to media crews in August, 2016 during his visit to Lakki Marwat district.
Imposing an education crisis, after Pakistan Tehrek-i-Insaf(PTI) was voted into power in KP, has promised reforms in education sectors of the province. Various initiatives such as a monitoring system for educational institutions were established to ensure the attendance of the teachers in government-run schools.
The government has allocated a total of Rs10.3 billion for 64 on-going schemes in Elementary and Secondary Education sector while over Rs2.4 billion has been allocated for eight new schemes.
Some of the major projects included the conversion of 100 madrasas into regular primary schools for which Rs1.7 billion was allocated while another major project promised the establishment of 160 primary schools on an immediate basis in KP for which Rs.2.8 billion were earmarked.
One of the initiatives taken by the KP government was the establishment of 200 smart schools to provide quality education to children in areas affected by militancy or natural disasters.
The government has earmarked Rs.2 billion, of which Rs.1 billion was projected to be released in the fiscal year 2016-17 and the remaining Rs.1 billion will be released in the next fiscal year for the construction of smart schools across the province.
So far, a single school has been established to pilot the project since the budget was introduced in Lakki Marwat. The school cost over Rs12 million, and it has six class rooms, each room can facilitate 28 students.
The projects was widely publicized in the media and the PTI led provincial government of KP was applauded. However, it seems that the plan has failed to live up to its claims.
An official of the Elementary and Secondary Education department privy to the development says, “The school feasibility failed for various reasons and hence the funds allocated for the smart schools were transferred to other projects in the education sector.”
The official told Truth Tracker, under the condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the media, that the plan for establishment of smart schools in KP has been ignored due to technical issues.
Minister for Education, Muhammad Atif Khan, while talking to Truth Tracker, confirmed that the establishment of the smart schools project failed due to technical issues. He cited that the height of the smart schools was not satisfactory.
Secondly, he said, “The capacity for students in smart schools’ class rooms was smaller in comparison to a normal classroom.”
“Smart school classrooms have the capacity to accommodate up to 28 students while normal class rooms can accommodate up to 35 students,” Khan said, adding that due to such technical issues the project has been halted.
He told Newslens Pakistan that the project was pending and the funds will be utilized for construction of play areas in government-run schools. He added that the government does not want to work on a project which has not been approved by engineering experts as it can create problems for the children.
Meanwhile, Khan said that he would look for the engineering experts’ go ahead, as currently they have paused the plan, but if it gets approved, the government will construct it.
Independent experts deem the government’s attitude as careless, since they announced the plan without a feasibility report and proper planning. Malik Masood, Program Manager of Centre of Governance and Public Accountability, a non-for profit organization working for improvement of governance system said, “The government needs to do their homework regarding the establishment of Smart Schools before they announce the project.”
However, he did suggest that the government should first work on fixing the government-run schools that are already present and lacking facilities, rather than going towards the establishment of such projects.
“The already established 40,000 schools need to be improved so that every school can become a model institution where children can get quality education,” said Masood, adding that since an education emergency has been imposed in the province, it should be treated as a real emergency to improve education sector.
He did appreciate small improvements made by the education system of KP but he also added that it was not enough, the government needs to do more.
After a thorough review of the opinions presented by government officials and independent experts, Truth Tracker has concluded that the KP government has failed to fulfil its promise.