KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari may have made a generous donation of $10 million for a global initiative to educate all girls by the year 2015 - set up in the name of Malala Yousufzai - but his government has shamelessly failed to open more than 6,000 schools in his own home district.
These schools have neither been shut down by the Taliban nor bombed by suicide bombers. But they remain closed under the influence of lords ruling the peaceful land of the Sufi saints.
There are 6,721 such government schools in the 27 districts of Sindh. Of them 4,540 are non-operational and 2,181 are ghost schools, according to an official report obtained by The Express Tribune. The report, which has been prepared by the Sindh High Court, is based on inspections carried out by district and sessions judges across the province under the directives of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The apex court had constituted a commission comprising district and sessions judges on February 11 to investigate ‘ghost’ schools and ascertain reasons for the state’s apathy towards government schools. On a month-long deadline, the district judges paid visits to each school in their districts and sent reports to the SHC registrar office, from where a consolidated report was prepared and sent to the apex court last month.
The report revealed that there are total 48,227 schools established by the provincial government in the 27 districts of the province, including the five districts of Karachi, to impart education from primary level. Although the building structures of as many as 4,540 government schools exist on ground, they are no more functional, according to the report.
During inspection, the judges found that there are 2,181 other schools that only exist in files but there are no signs of them on ground. Some news reports also claimed that several schools have been converted into cattle pens or guest rooms for the local landlords.
Meanwhile, 524 government school buildings have been illegally encroached upon, the report added. And another 17 schools are under litigation pending in courts. The report also showed that funds worth millions of rupees were constantly being allocated by the government to run these absolutely good for nothing schools. Each district had received huge budgetary allocations to run them last year.
Home of Sindh govt
Interestingly, the report also revealed that the highest numbers of ghost schools are located in the president’s district, Benazirabad, which also has 112 schools that have been encroached upon.
Dadu district, where former education minister Pir Mazharul Haq holds sway, has the third highest number of ghost schools in Sindh with 271 ghost schools. Haq was elected from Dadu’s constituency of PS-74 in the 2008 elections, followed by his son Pir Mujeebul Haq in 2013.
The former education minister refused, however, to accept the commission’s findings. “I am not aware of any such report but if these are the findings then I challenge these figures,” he said. “This is certainly not possible that I would take action against ghost schools across Sindh and ignore my own district.”
Given the state of government schools in the province, it was ironic that only two days after the apex court ordered an inspection of the schools, the Sindh government took the lead among all the provinces by declaring primary education compulsory for children between the ages of five and 16. Sindh Assembly - where the anti-Taliban and pro-education Pakistan Peoples Party has ruled for most of the past 66 years - passed the ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education’ in compliance with article 25-A of the Constitution.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.