Despite a small increase in the development budget for the Capital Administration and Development Division, how it will meet a growing list of challenges remains to be seen.
Among the challenges are issues of daily wagers and contractual employees, fuel for school buses, enforcing the right to free education, and ensuring the availability of free text books.
Last year, about Rs22 million was allocated for two ongoing projects, but this time, about Rs 748 million has been allocated for eight projects in development schemes of education.
Besides, about Rs7.38 billion has been allocated for salaries and the non-salary budget, compared to Rs7.22 billion last year, a 2.2 per cent increase.
The budget did not include any project that would assist in the implementation and execution of Article 25-A — the right to free and compulsory education. The law was passed in November 2012, but CADD has not yet specified rules of business for it. Last December, the government also abolished student funds in the schools as a step towards implementing the article, but instead, following that announcement, the salaries of employees who were being paid from that fund have become a new headache.
Free text books
Summer vacations will start on Friday, but most students have not yet received their textbooks for next year. Students in grades eight through 10 are among the worst-hit. There was no mention of anything related to free books in the CADD allocations.
The text book issue has gotten so out-of-hand that many parents avoid the risk of waiting and just buy them from the market. However, even for parents who can afford to pay for the books, getting their hands on some books which are only available from specific distributors or those that are only provided by the Federal Directorate of Education is still problem.
In April, a CADD spokesperson told the media that all the books would be available by the first week of May, but a month after the given deadline, no books are in sight.
The non-salary budget is another issue for CADD, because there were also cuts on some non-salary heads last year, which made it difficult to handle costs related to operating school buses, training of teachers, maintenance and classroom aids.
Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (ISAPS) Research Fellow Ahmad Ali said the budget suggests that education is not a priority in the Islamabad Capital Territory area. “In the current budget, the increase is only 2.2 percent. When they were struggling last year with a similar amount, how will they address everything with this amount in the new fiscal year,” he added.
There are about 145,000 out-of-school children in ICT, mostly in rural areas, and the heavy influx of students from Rawalpindi and the children of internally displaced people have also made it a challenge for CADD to keep pace.
CADD Secretary Faridullah Khan said implementation of Article 25-A is an international obligation and they are working on it. On the current budget and challenges ahead, he said it would not be a problem for them and government assistance would be available if needed.
“I do not think the budget for free books and construction of new schools will be a problem for us. We will manage in the allocated amount,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2014.