One matter on which there is almost universal agreement is that the public sector education system in Pakistan is in desperate need of repair and rehabilitation. Nowhere in the country is this truer than in Balochistan, but there are reports of several lights at the end of the tunnel. Balochistan has the lowest enrolment rate nationally, with only two-thirds of all children going to school. Disaggregated, the picture is even bleaker. In Dera Bugti 89 per cent of all children are not in school. Sixty per cent of primary schools are for boys only against 15 per cent that are all-girls. In Awaran district, not a rupee has been earmarked to build secondary schools for girls — but there is money to build two boys’ schools. There are disparities everywhere, despite which there is a province-wide effort to improve education at every level.
Spending on primary schools at Rs29 billion exceeds the budget for law and order. Teachers are to get salary increases with those who are more qualified likely to benefit most. Inevitably, the delivery of education is linked to security as there are places where it is simply too dangerous to go to school. The army has stepped into the classroom and invested in schools, scholarships, hostels and stipends. International donors are negotiating with the provincial government. There is no single ‘fix’ for what is a complex problem. Teachers must be trained, teaching as a profession needs to be incentivised to attract the best, and the ramshackle bureaucracy that sees inconsistencies of funding disbursal create an uneven and ramshackle education system — needs fixing as well. A more holistic approach is being explored to bring in private schools and seminaries; existing schools are getting an upgrade with boundary walls, toilets and additional classrooms. All of that and more is, at least in part, finally being addressed in Balochistan. There is still a gap to be closed between planning and ground realities but light there is — and we hope it burns ever brighter.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2014.