SUKKUR: If you wish to gauge the Sindh government’s performance over the past seven years, you need look no further than the state of public schools in the province. A sizeable number only exist on paper; yet others can hardly qualify as schools. In these circumstances, the void has been filled by entrepreneurs who have made education their calling and private schools their money-making machines.
The Express Tribune recently conducted a survey of a few government schools in Sukkur. The results, as expected, were debilitating. Most school buildings are in shambles with little or no facilities for students or faculty members.
A case in point is the Government Islamia Primary School, Gharibabad. Built in 1948, the school has over the years become a victim of neglect and bureaucratic apathy and is now crumbling apart bit by bit. The plaster of the roof has fallen off in most of the classrooms, exposing the rusting iron bars that are part of its foundation. The cracked walls are also in need of urgent repairs.
The school’s headmaster, Muzafar Hussain Baloch told The Express Tribune that the school gets Rs22,000 per year as part of the school management committee (SMC) fund, which is quite insufficient for the repairs. “The local community has helped us repair the roof and toilets but there is still a lot left to be desired,” he said. As per policy, the public school charges no admissions fee and they also provide books free of cost.
Baloch expressed displeasure over the apathetic attitude of the education department’s senior officials. “Whenever we draw their attention towards the dilapidating condition of the building, they simply ask us to use the SMC funds.” He added that they were trying to increase the enrolment of students but the poor condition of the premises drove people away.
If the Islamia Primary School is bad, it is nothing compared to the Government Girls Mosque Primary School Railway Colony, Sukkur. The crumbling walls and broken down furniture are not worthy of being part of a school. What is most ironic is that the school is using a ‘kunda’ [illegal connection] as the electricity was disconnected over two years due to non-payment of bills.
The school’s headmistress, Ameer Bibi, showed around the school with a frustrated look. She said the authorities had asked them to use the SMC funds for the maintenance of the building and furniture. For Ameer Bibi, however, it was impossible to maintain the building with just Rs22,000 per year.
A few years ago, the overhead water tank had developed cracks and the school was forced to purchase a new plastic tank. The latter too developed cracks and they are now forced to fetch water from a nearby hand pump.
Most of the staff deployed at the school is female, except for a peon. The school does not even have a watchman to ensure the security of the schoolchildren. Ameer Bibi claimed she had on several occasions requested the authorities to pay the school’s electricity bill, but the standard response had been to pay the dues from the SMC fund. “It is very difficult for us to work in such an unfriendly environment,” she said, adding that the poor condition of government schools compelled parents to send their children to private institutions. “We have talented and dedicated teachers and brilliant students but what set us back is the dilapidated condition of school buildings and lack of proper equipment and facilities.”
Sukkur primary education district officer Naseem Lakho, when asked about the poor infrastructure and facilities, blamed the government for not releasing the required funds. “Our duty is to write letters to the high ups and demand funds for the maintenance and repairs, but we cannot do anything if they don’t heed our concerns,” she claimed.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2015.