The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, while presenting the budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, had announced that English medium schools of the Cambridge School System offering classes from Nursery to O’ Levels will be established in every district of the province.
A total of almost Rs3.7 billion were allocated in the current budget for this scheme but, after almost 10 months of the announcement, there is not much to show for the allocation. Work has not started on even a single school in the province, let alone one in every district. Official sources claimed that Rs70 million have been released but there is not much in terms of on-the -ground progress.
Apart from this, the provincial government had also allocated funds to build state of the art public schools in several districts. Sanghar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Ghotki, Kamer Shahdadkot and Matiari were the districts where the public schools scheme was planned, with an allocation of just over Rs1.5 billion. Meanwhile, Rs3.8 billion had been earmarked for 23 ‘comprehensive’ schools in various districts. These schemes have also not been implemented.
Either the elected representatives of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) are fighting among each other over where the schools will first be established, each hoping to get the honour for their home town.
“Soon after the budget was announced, two PPP MPAs of our district started lobbying to set up a public school in their home town,” said a senior education department official. “Nadir Magsi asked the CM to start work in Shahdadkot, while other MPAs were in favour of setting up schools in Qamber. This conflict took several months to resolve. Finally, the government has demarcated a plot in Shahdadkot.”
According to the 2013-14 public sector development programme, the provincial government had also allocated a significant amount on the establishment of four new cadet colleges in Sindh.
A total of almost Rs1.9 billion had been allocated for the cadet college in Benazirabad, which is in its final stages, but no work has so far started on the college in Garhi Khuda Bux for which government had allocated Rs1 billion.
The government also has to complete work on two other cadet colleges in Mithi and Dadu by June but is far behind the intended target. Only two walls have so far been constructed around the plots. Sources privy to the schemes told The Express Tribune that ‘zero per cent’ of the allocated amount has been used in the programmes.
Pakistan Muslim League-Functional’s Shaharyar Mahar said the utilisation of the funds is a big question mark. “Every year, we see billions of rupees allocated for the development budget and special packages, a majority of which are left unfinished,” he said.
The official stance
The education secretary, Fazlullah Pechuho, did accept that there have been certain ‘technical hitches’ that have hindered the progress. “We have now gotten the approval from the relevant authorities to establish the Cambridge System Schools in every district and we will start work on them after the upcoming budget,” Pechuho told The Express Tribune, before going on to speak about the progress of the cadet colleges. “The girls’ cadet college in Benazirabad has almost been completed but work on others has yet to start.”
However, he was quick to point out that the delay in the establishment of the second girls’ cadet college is not voluntary. “We wanted to start work on the college but someone has challenged it in court, claiming that the land on which the college is being established belongs to him.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2014.