KARACHI: The deplorable condition of several public school buildings in Sindh has left the lives of students and teachers at risk. Given negligence and apparent apathy of the Sindh education department, students study in dilapidated buildings which often lack basic facilities - some are without stable roofs.
The list of such schools is widespread and includes the Government Boys Primary School in JamKanda, Malir, the primary school in Ghazi Town, Malir, Bharya Government School, girls' school in Gadap Town, schools in Manora Island, Ali Muhammad Lashari Village and Jam Kando, among others.
Jam Kanda Malir
There are a total of eight classrooms at the government boys primary school in Jam Kanda Malir. Three of these classrooms are in such a tumbledown state that their structure may fall any second. Besides, the school has a total enrollment of around 300 students and yet has only six serving teachers.
Within the boundary wall of this school, another school by the name of Medina Masjid, operates which has 80 students enrolled and only one teacher available.
The school lacks basic facilities such as bathrooms, drinking water and furniture. The school's administration says it has informed the district education office (DEO) several times and has submitted written complaints but to no avail. Most of the students studying there are from low-income groups and a majority of them go for some form of labour after school. They further informed that there are a number of students waiting to be enrolled at the school but given the current state of the school's building and lack of infrastructure they have been denied admission. A part of the roof has already fallen on the students in the past, claims the administration.
Similarly, a boys primary school in Gadap Town, union council six, has resorted to using steel sheets as a make-shift roof. Students are forced to brave the hot weather in conditions such that indoors offers no respite from the heat. Nosebleeds and children who fainted due to the heat are common sights at the school.
They are also prone to injuries as the plastic holding the make-shift roof together keeps tearing apart. Several injuries have been reported in the past due to this reason and the administration expects more of them to occur.
The school has not seen repair work for nearly 15 years now. Its furniture has also not fared well over the years and is now barely functional.
The students studying there say that the school lacks clean water and is without a bathroom. And yet, they ask, where would they go if they did not even complete primary education?
The school administration maintains that while officers from the DEO come to inspect the school their efforts are restricted to merely compiling a report.
Lacking basic facilities
The skewed ratio between girls and boys acquiring education is a problem widely recognised. Often times it is families which prioritise their sons' education over their daughters. However, the residents in the surrounding areas of Haji Darya Khan Government Girls School maintain that while they wish to see their daughters educated the deplorable condition of the public school leaves them hesitant. They maintain that the number of students enrolled keeps waning while teachers remain absent. They give examples of other public schools in the neighbourhood which have either shut down or function without electricity and water.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Principal Javed Iqbal said that let alone repair work which has not been done in several years but the school also lacks basic sanitation. Essential staff is missing, he says, adding that the absence of a watchman has resulted indoors, fans and windows of the school being stolen.
The students and teachers at the school are forced to use to go the houses of people residing nearby each time they need to relieve themselves as the school is without a bathroom.
Young children risk their lives while pursuing their right to education even though on paper, at least, it appears that the education department has enough funds.
A major chunk of the budget is allocated for the education department by the Sindh government and each year that allocation sees an increase. The previous year saw 27% of the budget reserved for the education department. This amounted to nearly Rs208.23 billion. In the current fiscal year, the budget allocated for schools alone, increased from Rs170.83b to Rs178.62b, whereas development budget was set at Rs15.15b. However, it remains apparent that several public schools have been neglected and deprived of repair and maintenance for some years now.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2019.