Underpasses can be made but not schools

The only reason Balochistan always has the highest ratio of out-of-school children is because Balochistan’s government has always been neglecting the decades-long education crisis.

Balochistan is generally defined as the province which is resourceful but remains the most underdeveloped in the country. Despite realising this, there is a whopping illiteracy rate which has not only devastated the province but also our youth. According to statistics, 5.02 million out-of-school girls and boys between the ages of five and 16 remain to be enrolled in schools and Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world after Nigeria.

Pakistan Education Statistic 2015-2016 launched by the National Education Management Information System – a subsidiary of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training revealed that Pakistan’s largest province – Balochistan – has the highest proportion of out-of-school children followed by the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The only reason Balochistan always has the highest ratio of out-of-school children is because Balochistan’s government has always been neglecting the decades-long education crisis in the province and has never been sincere in efforts to increase enrolment of out of school children. The figure of 1.8 million out-of-school children, as social workers say, is projected to increase in the next year.

It must be noted that Balochistan has around 13,000 government-run schools, 2,500 of which are for girls and the other 10,500 for boys respectively. On the contrary, Balochistan is home to more than 10 million people.

Most of these schools lack infrastructure such as boundary walls, electricity, toilets and most importantly clean drinking water which raises the question: What is Balochistan government doing to provide quality education to its youth?

Even the number of qualified teachers is far too low. One can often see one teacher attending a class of far too many students under trees, since there is lack of classrooms.

According to the recent estimation of International Labour Organisation, 10 million children are estimated to be child labourers and according to estimates, 38.4 percent of the youth are estimated to be illiterate in Pakistan. On top of that, illiterate youth and illiterate children, both are obstructions to progress and peace in Balochistan.

Spontaneously, the Balochistan government started the National Testing Service which aims to give academic opportunities to students based on merit. Unfortunately, the programme could not be properly executed because of a lack of teachers.

The Balochistan government has claimed that it is giving priority to the education sector of Balochistan. It has also allocated Rs 50 million for teachers’ salaries, however teachers remain absent from Balochistan’s schools. It seems as if these teachers only exist on paper.

Last year, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was made responsible for investigating embezzlement in the Balochistan educational system. NAB took action against 400 teachers who had used fake certifications to get jobs in schools, but this will not fix Balochistan’s education problems.

It must be noted that Balochistan has around 13,000 government-run schools, 2,500 of which are for girls and the other 10,500 for boys. Most of these schools lack infrastructure such as boundary walls, electricity, toilets and most importantly clean drinking water which raises the question: What is Balochistan government doing to provide quality education?

To my recent visit in my own native village, I surprisingly found the boys and girls high school in shabby conditions. On my query, one of the students told me that they were not interested in studies because they would easily solve the paper through cheating.

While the other said, “Of what use is education to us?”

Karim, the son of a farmer in the village has a very vigorous desire to get education but unfortunately he is among that large number of Baloch who are out of schools.

One of the farmers in the village said that he had a son named Amin who had clinched the first position in Grade 1 but has never gone to school and has been addicted to drugs and snatches mobile phones, money of many people and his crimes are common in the village due to illiteracy.

A girl, Isra, after passing Grade 5, has been forced to quit school because there’s only one primary school in her village and she has to go to Tump for her higher education but her parents are very poor and both of them work and thus, she gets no one to drop and pick her from the nearby government secondary school.

There are more than hundreds of thousands of Baloch who want to pursue education but to no avail.

Despite the Article 25-A quotes, “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children aged five to 16 years,” the state fails to provide education to its youth. The law is quite adequate but has been neglected and thus child labour is piling up rather than coming to an end. Above all, Balochistan government does not only need to provide free education but also free uniforms so that the poorest citizens can also receive at least a basic education. On account of unaffordable uniforms, many children have been expelled from school, resulting in mind boggling illiteracy.

Balochistan is facing a number of problems and consequences such as target killings, kidnappings, street crimes, robberies, begging, suicides amongst the youth and many more, most of which are being committed by illiterate youth and illiterate children. Illiterate people, who have scarcity of knowledge, are likely to fall prey to crimes and other anti-social activities.

It may not come as surprise to most of us that terrorism, which has made life in Pakistan a living hell, is piling up owing to the exploitation of illiterate people by terrorists who use them as their ‘foot soldiers’ by manipulating religion.

We always catch news of illiterate people or youth meeting with terrorists. They join hands with the terrorists after being brainwashed on the basis of religion. Afterwards, they try to kill innocent people via suicide explosions.

Howbeit, the federal and provincial government spend millions and even trillions to buy F-16 and build underpasses, motorways and corridors but the percentage of education in Balochistan is 5 percent.

If we have a strong desire to help the poor citizens of this country occupy a good position in society, we ought to divert full focus on free education, root and branch, which not only helps poor people but also results in rooting out most of the crime-related problems of our country so that our next generations see a greater tomorrow.

Zeeshan Nasir

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