KARACHI: The Sindh government has allocated Rs24.4 billion for various development schemes in the education sector for the fiscal year 2018-19. However, these funds are only earmarked for ongoing schemes as the government did not announce any new schemes in the budget, leaving them for the new government that will come into power after the elections.
The share of education in the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the current fiscal year was Rs21 billion. However, a large chunk of funds could not be utilised and had to be carried forward in the following year's budget.
Most education schemes in the budget date back five to 10 years. Though Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah claimed in his budget speech that education was his government's highest priority, the non-utilisation of funds in the education sector suggests otherwise.
The government claims to have introduced drastic reforms in the education sector after the imposition of an education emergency but such claims are hard to believe as a large proportion of funds allocated for education-related schemes have been carried forward.
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According to the break-up of the Rs24.4 billion for education, Rs5 billion has been earmarked for college education, Rs15 billion for school education, Rs3.2 billion for boards and universities, Rs958.5 million for the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority and Rs200 million for special education. According to the ADP, Rs3 billion has been allocated for foreign-funded projects related to the education sector.
"New schemes of education will be accommodated after [the] general elections for which [funds have] been earmarked separately as 'block allocation' in [the] Annual Development Programme," the CM said while presenting the budget on Thursday. He added that the government was fully committed to providing high-quality education to all children between five and 16 years in the province so that they could realise their full potential and contribute to the development of society and the economy, along with upholding the values of tolerance, social justice and democracy.
According to the budget documents, seven new cadet colleges for boys will be established in various locations of Sindh, including Mithi in Tharparkar, Kakar in Dadu, Karampur in Kashmore-Kandhkot, Khairpur, Badin and Jacobabad. A cadet college will also be established for girls in Larkana. The schemes for cadet colleges are around eight years old and they have yet to be materialised.
The budget documents also reveal that Rs11.25 billion has been allocated for different development schemes in the education sector. Meanwhile, around 167 schemes are expected to be completed by June, 2018, which include construction and reconstruction, rehabilitation and upgrading of schools.
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According to the budget, Rs250 million will be spent to establish the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto University of Law under an existing scheme. The budget for school facilities has been estimated at Rs.4.9 billion, which will be utilised to provide furniture and stationery at schools and for other purposes. The amount allocated for girls' stipends is Rs1.2 billion.
"Around 25 schools [that will follow] the Cambridge system and 25 comprehensive high schools are being established across the province," a budget document read, adding that Rs750 million has been earmarked for innovative initiatives, rehabilitation and expansion of 4,560 schools with high enrolment. The schools were selected after extensive surveys to carry out major and minor repair works, provide missing facilities, reduce drop-out ratio and increase enrolment.
Sindh Education Foundation
The Sindh government has also allocated Rs9.6 billion for the Sindh Education Foundation. The foundation was allocated Rs8.09 billion in last year's budget.
"The Sindh Education Foundation is engaged in increasing the quality of education [in] under-privileged areas. The foundation is currently serving almost 555,943 students in 2,314 schools all over Sindh, through sustainable partnerships with individuals and organisations from the private sector," the CM said during the speech.
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In the budget, the government has also kept a provision for scholarships to all students securing A-1 grades in their matriculation examinations. For this, an amount of Rs.1.2 billion has been allocated.
"The scholarship shall be provided as an incentive to students for secure higher grades," the CM said.
The scholarship amount has been fixed at Rs100,000 per student for all educational boards of Sindh. According to the chief minister, a large number of deserving students will benefit from these schemes.
The scholarship scheme was also approved in the last budget. However, students who secured A-1 grades in their matriculation examinations and their parents complained that they ran from pillar to post to receive the scholarship but were unable to do so.
The CM also announced the abolition of registration and examination fees for matriculation and intermediate students across the province.
The opposition, however, was not impressed by the budget. MPAs belonging to the opposition parties called it a 'jugglery of words' and claimed that all promises made by the government would remain on paper and would never be implemented.
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