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Education Prospects In Balochistan

By Hafiz Abdul Majid

The challenges confronting Dr. Malik Baloch’s government in the largest and most troubled province of Balochistan, are both great in number and magnitude. However, only a few of these issues get space in the mainstream national electronic and print media. Some of the grave problems besetting the province either get only a passing mention or go unreported altogether.

Outside the province people mostly hear about the issues of missing persons, recovery of mutilated bodies of political activists, or incidents of blasts and rocketing in the province. Another equally grave challenge to which we have apparently turned a blind eye is the alarming state of education in the province. After the 18th Amendment now it is the responsibility of the provincial government to provide free and compulsory education to the children (between 5-16 years).

The available data about the performance of the province in education presents a sorry picture and a grim prospect. The last survey report of Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (2011-2012), revealed that against the overall national literacy rate of 58% for 10 years and above population, Balochistan ranked the lowest with a literacy rate of only 46 %; Punjab and Sindh stood on the top with 60% each for the population of same age group, while in KPK province, the literacy rate was recorded as 52 %. Another survey suggests that around two thirds of the population (10 years and above), have never had any schooling; while out of 1.2 million primary school age children in the province 20 % are out of schools.

The underlying factors for this grim state of affairs are numerous; however there are two factors, which warrant a sincere and immediate response from the provincial government. These include an acute shortage of infrastructure and allied facilities in the schools across the province; and a sense of insecurity for the teacher in the province due to which a good number of senior teachers have fled the province.

The ‘‘Policy Analysis of Education in Balochistan’’ published by UNESCO in 2011, provides some interesting data about the lack of facilities in the education sector in province. The study reveals that out of total 22000 settlements across the province only 10,000 of them have schools (total number of schools is 12,293). However, it is not only the less number of schools which plagues the education sector; the missing facilities is yet another immense challenge for the government. According to the same study around 57% of these schools lack the facilities of drinking water, 46% have no boundary walls, 52% are without electricity and 29% do not have toilets. In addition to these missing facilities a good number of schools (9%) are even without any shelter.

Besides infrastructure gap the government also has to grapple with the challenge of shortage of teachers. The province has never had sufficient teachers to cope with the growing number of students in the schools. There is good number of single teacher’s schools in the province. However, things took a nasty turn after the start of insurgency in 2004. A large number of teachers (native and non-natives) lost their lives in the ongoing conflict; while many fled the province for good. According to a statement of the ex- secretary education Balochistan (published in November, 2011), at least 150 senior teachers including 25 PhD professors have migrated from the province due to security threats. The latest number should be even larger now.

The provincial government of Dr. Malik Baloch has expressed its firm commitment to strengthen the wobbly education system in the province. Chief Minister in his budget speech declared the education sector as one of the top priorities of his government. He announced a 42% increase in the budget for education sector. Among other education related measures he also announced establishment of a provincial Higher Education Commission, construction of 300 more primary schools, and up-gradation of an equal number of primary schools to middle schools and 150 middle schools to high schools. Besides these steps three new medical colleges in the province are to be established in the province and the existing Bolan Medical College to be upgraded to the level of university.

It, however, has yet to be seen as to whether the provincial government takes any concrete steps to successfully implement these plans or the education in the province continues its downward slide.