Metro Bus Project: The opportunity cost of ignoring education

Published: July 6, 2015
A statistical look into the benefits of the project against building schools. PHOTO: FILE

A statistical look into the benefits of the project against building schools. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The question that plagues us: what are the significant factors that shape a nation’s progress or deterioration? In recent times, we have seen a different point of view on mainstream and social media about the Rawalpindi/Islamabad Metro Bus Project.

The people of Pakistan are divided into two on the issue of the metro bus against education. However, reality of the fight between the two is actually based on statistics.

The total cost of the Metro project, as per government, is approximately Rs50 billion. As a substitute of spending Rs50 billion on the bus service, we could have used these funds on our education, despite the fact that our official figures say that our literacy rate is 58%.

The state of education in Pakistan is terrible compared to other countries. Currently, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children at the primary level.

According to an Alif Ailaan report, there are 25 million out-of-school children in total. Out of these, around 5 million are between the ages of five to nine (at primary level). Furthermore, out of these, almost 500,000 belong to Rawalpindi and Islamabad

In a broader context, the statistics of constructing a school are shown in the table:

The cost for a primary school infrastructure is Rs13.8 million. Additionally, primary schools have six classrooms, 240 students and nine teachers to teach various subjects required.

The total staff is assumed to consist of a head teacher, nine teachers, a clerk, gardener, peon, gatekeeper, sweeper and a school maid. The combined salaries for the staff will approximately be around Rs100,000 per month.

Read: Allocation for Metro Bus projects slammed

Therefore, 240 out-of-school children need a cost of Rs13.9 million for enrolment.

At present, adjusting 0.5 million out-of-school children of Rawalpindi and Islamabad at the primary level will need approximately 2,076 (500,000/240) schools. And the complete cost of building a school is Rs13 million.

So the flow of whole information is that Rs288.5 billion is required for the construction of 2076 schools. On the other hand, we have used Rs50 billion for the Metro and cost of a single school is 0.0139 bn.

The value shows that government can only build 360 schools (Rs50 billion/Rs13.9 million). Moreover, if each school has 240 students then the total students going to school would be 84,600.

Consequently, instead of using Rs50 billion on the bus project and facilitating 135,000 people daily, the government can give priority to 86,400 out-of-school primary children by sending them to school.

How do we define benefit?

Writing and calculating the whole scenario does not mean to criticise infrastructure projects but just to apprehend the priorities. Currently, the government should be focused on education, science and technology.

Our social indicators are showing a downward trend over the past few years. The politicians are not statesmen; they are more concerned in short-term investments like roads, mass transits, flyovers specifically metro projects, but are averse to spend money on education. This is because education is a long-term commitment which does not generate instant benefits.

Read: Metro bus project: Minister’s brother gets horticulture contract

The government’s knack for promoting short term investments is rigid as each one of those 86,400 children will benefit the nation in a ‘far-fetched future’.

South Korea is an ideal example for this discussion. It is considered in the G-20 countries because it invested heavily in its education sector in the 1960s and 1970s and is now reaping the dividends.

Its GDP is several hundred times more than Pakistan. This is the time for a new strategy and effective education creates a population with both the skills and the mind-set needed to create economic progress.

Government officials should need to fund and execute education that instructs core skills in reading, math and technology and which also goes ahead of memorising information. There is a need to open up learning opportunities to students from lower-income and rural families – by broadcasting television lectures on an Educational Broadcasting System.

They should introduce test-free semesters in all middle schools to give students some relief. Government should ease the burden of education costs by providing free education – covering admission costs, tuition fees and text books.

The writer is a researcher at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute


Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • riz
    Jul 6, 2015 - 7:32AM

    Every sector has its own importance, education should have the periority but good transporation system is the need of hour.Recommend

  • Imtiaz Ahmed
    Jul 6, 2015 - 8:37AM

    This is actually very important and it should be the priority for the government, irrespective of any political belief as it is in the national interest. Moreover, we have Article 25-A of the constitution which makes it a fundamental right for all those children who are between the ages of 5-16 years. Article 25-A says that “Free and compulsory education should be provided to all children between the age of 5-16 years. I think this is the high time that governments should take it seriously and stop playing with the nation and its future.Recommend

  • Sami
    Jul 6, 2015 - 9:41AM

    The article is just cheap point scoring. Can you name one country that took its literacy rate to 100% and then started to spend elsewhere? Three other provinces have made no metros and they still lag behind Punjab in education according to a recent Alif-Ailaan Report. The Metro provides service to the lower segments of society. Each person using the service saves about Rs.100 a day. Thats about 3,000 a month! He can spend this extra cash on the health and education of his family.Recommend

  • shehryar
    Jul 6, 2015 - 10:49AM

    i find it so amusing to hear ppl harping on about how transportation is an urgent need in this country. yes, if u’r talking about linking far-flung villages to the main grid to give them access to a more lucrative market. but throwing more trains n buses at already-congested urban centers is the “need of the hour”? seriously? it’s like saying obesity-control is the an urgent need. yes, many pakistanis r overweight, but surely, before spending millions on campaigns to get a handful of ppl to eat healthy we need to target those who have hardly anything to eat at all?Recommend

  • Jul 6, 2015 - 11:45AM

    Its all about priorities, I have not seen PM inaugurating any educational institution or a hospital. This is sad that our direction is still not right, I can only pray that people of Pakistan understand their needs and demand accordingly. Recommend

  • ZAK
    Jul 6, 2015 - 11:53AM

    I think spending on Metro is beneficial for all people. Especially those going to school, college and universities.

    Writing against the project is your opinion but it is fact that hundreds of thousands of people are benefiting from project both directly and indirectly. Recommend

  • Masroor Gilani
    Jul 6, 2015 - 12:18PM

    “A majority of girls’ parents do not allow them to study, while boys are mostly not willing to go to schools,” says Alif Ailan’s report and this explains that no matter how many more schools you build, the main problem is retention and high drop out ratio.Recommend

  • A. Waheed
    Jul 6, 2015 - 12:37PM

    Well, every sector requires improvements in other words funds. Yes, we need to set our priorities and must invest on long term projects. I am not saying short term investments are not required. For me it is enough with metro and transportation facilities from now onward PM(n) must show their interest towards health and education. Otherwise they will lose my vote just like thousands other. I wish we would get rid from this war and terror and start investing our full strength to improve the areas where we are really lacking. Long live Pakistan. Recommend

  • Aamir
    Jul 6, 2015 - 12:52PM

    The problem is jobs! Suppose if we make 86,400 children educated, then who will provide ’em jobs? There are millions of people in the country without jobs!! When they complete their education, they go here and there for searching a job, but they fail. It will be good if our government does work parallel to the jobs and education then it will be a game changer, otherwise it has no gain.Recommend

  • Farhan J
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:04PM

    Rs50 billion/Rs13.9 million = 3597 schoolsRecommend

  • JB
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:15PM

    @riz : Transport? really? Do you realize if the same money was spent on the energy crisis, we might not have had 1200 deaths in Karachi due to the heat wave? But obviously life is cheap for PMLN. They needed the metro because it is a tangible item; something that could be shown off for more votes. Recommend

  • khaptaan
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:34PM

    @writer.. are you a PTI troll?Recommend

  • nadeem
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:40PM

    The writer is not trashing the Metro project, he is merely saying that when your education and health statistics are in the ICU (Intensive care unit, close to death), then until these two things are healthy enough to come down to the hospital’s general ward we need to make them our first priority. Then once they are out of ICU ( even though still not healed ), we can broaden our priorities to other areas. Bottomline: our education and health sectors – as a result of criminal negligence for decades – are in very, very bad shape. Forget about economic progress if your population is sick and under-educated. Recommend

  • Pak_Patriot
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:43PM

    @Sami: Actually, according to that report, KP has the highest net primary enrolment in the country at 83% while Punjab languishes at 70%. So KP has the least % of kids out of primary school. There are other indicators where Punjab leads but then it has historically been better off compared to the less developed provinces which have been neglected, war-ravaged and governed poorly. Look at the delta of the last few years in Punjab and you see no improvement or a worsening of the situation, while KP has improved the most.

    100% literacy is a strawman argument. Who said we should wait for 100% literacy before spending anything at all in other areas? Point is to prioritise budget spending based on what’s more important; education and health. Provide basic necessities first and then look for mega-projects which facilitate people or make their life easier.

    Spending ‘extra cash’ on health and education would be possible if all areas have equal access to quality health and education. They don’t.Recommend

  • Naeem
    Jul 6, 2015 - 2:31PM

    Wait, What? 100,000 for the staff of nine people including teachers? What kind of school are you running? Private schools of lowest class are paying 15k+ to the teachers. Govt are never less than 30k per teacher. how did you total 100k for all staff of 9 at a primary school?Recommend

  • Chachoo
    Jul 6, 2015 - 2:43PM

    For the information of Author Punjab have the Highest Budget percentage for education than any other province in this budget. So what else they should do?. Also it is my request to PTI supporters that since KP becomes a Paradise so kindly pack your bags from Punjab and start shifting there. Why so many families are migrating from KP towards Punjab when so called revolution or Naya Pakistan have changed everything there?. Even Imran Khan’s whole family lives in Punjab , enjoy here and then curse the same land because of hunger of power. Recommend

  • Shariq
    Jul 6, 2015 - 3:02PM

    The whole costing is out of order in this article. Rs 13.9 million is not equal to Rs 0.139 billion. Renders the whole article invalid. Recommend

  • drS
    Jul 6, 2015 - 3:04PM

    some people just know how to criticize, they can’t appreciate good things.. health and education should be improved but it doesn’t mean we should ignore transport sectorRecommend

  • Tariq
    Jul 6, 2015 - 3:56PM

    Very well written arguments to support education. Indeed no one can deny the importance of education especially in a country like Pakistan. However, if the author conduct same type of research on transport system where everyday peoples spent hours and hours waiting for public transport and they have been abused by every mean then I think the conclusion will not be different. I think we need better transport system, better health facilities, better justice system and last but not least better education system. Every effort to improve any of the above mentioned sectors should be encouraged on its own capacity. Recommend

  • z
    Jul 6, 2015 - 4:36PM

    Thanks God and Thanks to PM! at least we are talking about priorities set for progressive Pakistan, and worried about Education Health and transport etc and not about terrorism, corruption scandals and target killing like in previous 10 year governments.Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    Jul 6, 2015 - 4:42PM


    The fare of metros is heavily subsidized by the govt, which is taken back from the public through indirect taxes. So, your perceived saving of Rs 3000 per person goes through the roof. In fact, we pay more through the indirect taxes, hence, the poor remains poor. As far as literacy rate of 100% is concerned, there are many countries where it has achieved, may not be not in immediate terms, but they all gave priority to educating their people with good technical knowledge & CIHNA is the best example. It is just a matter of priority. Improvement in the present infrastructure was more important than building a new project. The saving thus made could be diverted to education. The quality of education every where in the country is in shambles, except the private education. Compare apple to apple, please.

    Health requires same attention…..Recommend

  • Masroor Gilani
    Jul 6, 2015 - 4:48PM

    How does it compare to 1,000 billion plus defence budge?Recommend

  • Kazim Muneer
    Jul 6, 2015 - 5:58PM

    For a change, how about the Governments (and Private “Tycoons”) going for the right projects at the RIGHT price (without any commission and ulteriorly driven motives to rip off the public). With the right spirit (and intent), public funds can be spent on any sector whether it be education or transportation or health.Recommend

  • Aam Admi
    Jul 6, 2015 - 6:06PM

    It does not matter if people are dying of hunger. its perfectly alright if they are unable to find any jobs and they are condemned to commit suicides. its not responsibility of government to provide clean drinking water, basic health facilities, education, security and employment. however, the need of the hour is to erect magnanimous structures like metro bus, orange line, blue line, purple line to praise the magnanimity and benevolence of Great Nawaz Shareef and Great Shahbaz Shareef for all the times to come. What our country needs is a series of “record breaking performances” in constructing new structures as Monuments of the Great Reign of Sharifs. On the other hand people of Pakistan have always remained enough resourceful to either meet their basic needs or their ultimate end themselves. Hail Nawaz Shareef, Prevail Shahbaz Shareef!!Recommend

  • bechari-awam
    Jul 6, 2015 - 10:28PM

    That’s a great idea. Our total budget is about Rs 4T ($40B) and from there we can build around 295,000 schools every year. I will suggest author to promote that heavily, who needs pity stuff like water, health, roads, defense, food, power etc anyway. Recommend

  • Grace
    Jul 7, 2015 - 12:18AM

    @nadeem: I can guarantee you that if the money on transport was spent on education, it would have been wasted. At least Metrobus is something tangible and will improve economy. When economy improves, overall society will be better and people will improve everything. Look at Sind, KPK, Baluchistan where provincial governments spend nothing on transport for the poor and their education there is worse than Punjab in most respects. I say build more metrobus and roads to make the country more accessible and help exports.Recommend

  • Usamah
    Jul 7, 2015 - 4:15AM

    Metro is a blessing to worker class in islamabad those who cant afford expensive accommodation in islamabad compare to rawalpindi people working in twin cites faced alot of problems distance was one of them and besides that many of jobless people i knew got employed in metro project instead of blaming gov for publicity or personal goals we should grow up and think for greater good of others a humble request..Recommend

  • Think
    Jul 7, 2015 - 5:34AM

    FYI, priority != periority.Recommend

  • Azam Khan
    Jul 7, 2015 - 8:35AM

    @Sami: How can one spend Rs 3000 on the health and education of his family. Sounds senseless. By the way you are absolutely wrong, KPK is making big strides in the education of children. Well whether it is Sindh or KPK, it is Pakistan that needs education.Recommend

  • Azam
    Jul 7, 2015 - 9:14AM

    Make a trip of the Murree road over which Metro road passes. There is absolutely no reason to suggest that the Metro Bus could not run on the existing road.There is no congestion at all to stop the Metro Bus.Period.Recommend

  • Pacer
    Jul 7, 2015 - 11:16AM

    People criticizing the artical I challenge them to go through the process of getting a child admitted to a govt school in Islamabad. It is really difficult. Basic education is a right enshrined in the constitution and schools should not be turning back prospective students. But they have to because they are up to their limits. Ask the parents of these kids what would they rather want a school or a bus? i would ask you people if you have limited funds what would you do? Pay for your childrens education or buy a new car?Recommend

  • Jul 12, 2015 - 12:37AM

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