The Schools Education Department is to provide drinking water, electricity, toilets and boundary walls at 2,500 government primary and elementary girls’ schools all over the province and boys’ schools in southern Punjab as part of its development programme for 2013-14.
The missing facilities project takes up Rs7.5 billion of the Rs15.5 billion allocation for the development plan.
Qaiser Rasheed, the deputy secretary for planning and budget at the department, said that providing missing facilities and upgrading girls’ schools were amongst the department’s top policy objectives. Missing facilities are the biggest challenge to raising the retention rate for schoolchildren, he added.
The missing facilities project does not include additional classrooms. “The cost of constructing these additional classrooms would be an expense which we cannot manage at the moment,” he said. Building an additional classroom would cost Rs700,000 each, he added.
The 2013-14 budget does include a Rs400 million allocation for building additional classrooms in the schools with the highest enrolment rate. Also, Rs500 million has been allocated for the provision of furniture in high schools. The development programme includes Rs719 million for ongoing schemes and Rs2.5 billion for seven new initiatives.
Improved information and communication technology and science education is also listed as a policy objective for the Schools Education Department for 2013-14. The government plans to spend Rs1 billion on building new IT labs in schools across the province. Of this, Rs250 million is to build the first IT labs in government elementary schools.
The rest is for IT labs in high and higher secondary schools. According to the department, these schools were left out last year as they had recently been upgraded. The department has identified 1,500 high schools which do not have IT labs. The budget also includes an allocation of Rs200 million under on-going schemes for the replacement of 515 computer labs in secondary schools.
Also among the new schemes – and also listed as a priority policy objective is a Rs350 million project to upgrade government girls’ elementary schools to high schools. The Schools Education Department has identified more than 1,000 union councils where there are no high schools for girls.
Two hundred million rupees has been allocated for the purchase of land and construction of primary schools in housing societies in the province. This is amongst the lowest allocations for a new scheme in the development budget, but is also listed as a top priority.
The government has built seven Danish schools in the last four years at a cost of Rs5 billion in Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Attock, Mianwali, Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan. Almost 2,600 students are enrolled in these schools, all of them from low-income households and inducted on merit, Rasheed said. This year, Rs3 billion has been allocated for Danish Schools.
Release of funds
While the development budget for school education has increased from 2009 to 2013, it was largest in the fiscal year 2008-2009 at Rs16.5 billion, Rs1 billion more than for 2013-14. It was allocated Rs13.6 billion in 2009-10 and Rs14 billion the following year.
Rasheed says the biggest challenge is not allocation, but the timely release of funds. “When allocations are released at the end of the year, utilisation is not going to be effective,” he said.
While Rs16.5 billion was allocated in 2008-2009, only Rs9.6 billion was released. In 2009-10, in contrast, a total of Rs14.03 billion was released, some Rs400 million more than the allocation.
The low utilisation returned in 2010-2011, when Rs14 billion was allocated but only Rs9 billion was released. In 2012-2013, just Rs6.5 billion was released while Rs15 billion was allocated.
In a recent meeting with Punjab Assembly members last week, the Schools Education Department proposed that parliamentarians ensure that allocated funds are released to the department at the commencement of the fiscal year.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.