Pakistan People’s Party promised in its 2013 manifesto to monitor, coordinate and overview district wise utilisation of the education budget.
The Sindh government has been increasing the education budget annually without any substantial changes on ground in the education sector. The fact is that a large part of the education budget is spent on increasing teachers’ salaries who are mostly appointed for political patronage. According to media reports, in fiscal year 2016-17, Rs 17,233 million has been allocated for the education sector development. However, only 31 per cent, Rs 5,342.759 million of the allocated amount has been utilized for the development sector in 10 months. Almost 396 development schemes were announced that involved construction of schools and colleges and renovation of buildings, but not a single penny was spent on 270 schemes. The government had allocated Rs 650 million for pre-school education centres in all the districts of Sindh. The finance department released Rs 340 million but there is zero per cent spending.
The Sindh government has established a basic Human Resource and Information System for developing a comprehensive Sindh School Monitoring System. This system would be implement across Sindh in 29 districts through the Director General of Monitoring and Evaluation. A pilot project has been deployed and the system would be fully functional by the end of this year.
The Sindh government schools system comprises over 43,000 functional schools. The reported enrolment of students from grade 1-12 in these schools is 3.65 million and there are 1,45,000 teachers. Ninety per cent of these functional schools are primary schools (grade 1-5). Almost 70 per cent of the primary schools have only one or two teachers. Less than 20 per cent of schools reported to have low enrolment, less than 25 students and 52 per cent have poor quality or no facilities or amenities.
According to Sindh Education Monitoring Information System fewer than 23 per cent of schools buildings can be classified ‘satisfied,’ while 14 per cent of schools are dangerous and 17 per cent are Shelter less.
There is a consensus that despite of increase in budget allocation in the education sector the system is not performing. The malice as indicated by various reports on student assessment lies in the absence of good governance in education because of which students do not perform at their grade level.
Sharmila Farooqi, MPA Sindh Assembly from Pakistan People’s Party, defended her party position on education saying that more than 26,200 schools and 210,000 education staff spread across the province are being monitored through fingerprint-based biometric and photo system supported by Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates. She added that this bring transparency in the system and to address such problems as “absconder teachers” – teachers who are employed yet absent for a lengthy period–, missing basic facilities and infrastructure, closed schools and lack of reliable and timely information on school status and teacher presence. “All these things involve budget allocation.” The system has been set up under the Sindh Global Partnership for Education project, which supports the government’s reform efforts over a three-year period.
“To date, disciplinary action has been initiated against 40,000 absent teachers and 6,000 absconders,” said Farooqi.
He further added that the Education and Literacy Department has access to this information and uses it to plan and make informed decisions.
Fazlullah Pechuho, Former Secretary Education and Literacy Department, Sindh, said, “The Sindh School Monitoring System brings together technology and a robust accountability mechanism to address long-standing governance issues in education.”
Dr Seema Zia, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf member of the Sindh Assembly said that the education system in Sindh province is in a shambles. “Even the provincial administration has failed to resolve the issue of 5,000 fake schools and 5,000 fake teachers in the province,” she complained.
Another Sindh Assembly member of PTI, Samar Ali Khan, said that up to half of the population of Sindh was without schools, and not a single teacher was available in up to 47% of the schools of the province.
Nand Kumar, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional MPA, said that the education sector had been ruined, as half of the schools in the province were still without basic facilities such as drinking water, electricity, toilets and furniture, etc.
According to Alif Ailaan’s 2016 report, despite increased allocations, Sindh has the largest overall decrease in learning scores among all four provinces.
Education campaigner, Baela Raza Jamil, a trustee at Idara-i-Taleemo-Aagahi, tells the audience at a Karachi function that increasing budgets do not necessarily indicate better utilisation of funds, especially in Sindh and Balochistan. More money without adequate reforms cannot improve education indicators.
PPP has partially established the monitoring system to hold the administration accountable on the not improving the education system. However, the right and full allocation of education budget is still a mystery that does not seem to have been resolved.