By Khalid Khattak
Almost half of the public schools in Pakistan’s Sindh province do not have drinking water facility, let alone clean drinking water. Also, 63 percent of government-run schools in the province don’t have electricity at all.
The situation in other provinces except for Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) provinces vis-à-vis provision of basic amenities including toilets and boundary walls is also not encouraging as depicted in Pakistan Education Statistic 2015-16, launched by the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) earlier this month.
In all the provinces, primary schools (where students embark upon their educational journey) are worst hit by the absence of these basic facilities.
Out of a total 45,447 schools in Sindh (where political party PPP is in power), a substantial 46 percent don’t have toilet facilities for kids while 41 are without boundary walls.
It is not difficult to imagine experiences of students and teachers in schools having no water and electricity during summers when the temperature goes up as high as 50 °C (122 °F). Leave aside hygiene related issues for a while and keep social and cultural norms in mind. Will parents happily send their kids especially females to schools sans toilet facility?
The stakeholders say the slogan of quality education in public schools seems appealing but they question is this possible without environment which is conducive and enabling? The article 25-A, inserted into the Constitution of Pakistan in 2010, makes free and compulsory education a right to all children of the age of 5 to 16 years. But shouldn’t there be related infrastructural provisions at schools? They question.
These missing facilities in public schools have not been highlighted for the first time. The NEMIS—a subsidiary of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training has been publishing Pakistan Education Statistics since 1992-93 on annual basis.
An analysis of *NEMIS latest statistics reveals the situation in Balochistan province is particularly pathetic vis-à-vis availability of these facilities at schools, except for water facility where Sindh sits atop all provinces. Balochistan has a coalition government with mainly PML-N, National Party (NP) and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) sharing the power.
Balochistan province has a total of 12,987 public schools out of which a whopping 77 percent operate without electricity while 73 percent don’t have toilets.
Surprisingly, Punjab (where PML-N rules) is the only province where, according to NEMIS, just a handful public schools lack availability of these basic amenities. Less than one percent (only 174 out of total 52,314) schools don’t have water facility.
In Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf led KPK (which has a total of 27,626 schools) 38 percent of all public schools lack electricity. This infographic explains missing facilities in government-run schools across the country.
There is general consensus among stakeholders, particularly teachers, that strong political will to take on issues related to non-availabilities of facilities seriously is missing and they cite meager budgetary allocations in this regard.
“In many government schools in Sindh, students and teachers experience a jail like environment, especially in summer, as the schools lack basic facilities,” says Aslam Deedhar who is Larkana chapter general secretary of Sindh’s Primary Teachers Association. He regrets that missing facilities issues has not been taken up seriously over the years.
Similarly teachers in Balochistan don’t see allocations complementing the needs and link missing facilities with growing number of dropouts and out-of-school children (OOSC). As per the NEMIS report 70 percent children between the ages of five and 16 are still out of schools in Balochistan.
“Every government makes tall claims but little reflects in reality. Hundreds of schools are shelter-less (without buildings and operate in open area) in Balochistan and thousands lack basic amenities,” says Nawaz Jattak, who is chairman of the Government Teacher Association Balochistan (GTAB). He questions as to how such schools could attract parents and students.
Sindh Minister for Education and Literacy Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar says the provincial government has allocated over Rs 2 billion in the current budget for provision of basic facilities and renovation of over 1,400 girls’ schools.
“Our focus is girls’ schools to ensure availability of toilets, boundary walls and other missing facilities at the earliest,” he says and adds “Separately, we have allocated Rs 1.5 billion under M&R (maintenance and repair) for selected boys’ schools.”
According to the budget documents, KPK government has allocated over Rs 8 billion for provision of basic facilities in schools.
Zohair Zaidi who is Head of Research at Alif Ailaan (a campaign that seeks to put education at the front and center of public discourse in Pakistan) believes budget is a part of the problem and sees political ownership as missing.
“In some ways, the improvement in Punjab stems from aggressive monitoring at the top level. Stock-take meetings chaired by the Chief Minister are an important step in the right direction. While there are some issues that need to be addressed, the exercise does ensure political ownership and oversight at the highest level,” he says.
Hafiz Ghulam Mohyuddin, who heads a faction of Punjab Teachers Union (PTU) and lives in Faisalabad district, believes ground realities don’t match the stats mentioned in the report. “Faisalabad is second largest city of Punjab and still many of its public schools lack basic facilities,” he says and questions “How things would be in far-flung neglected districts like Rajanpur or DG Khan?”
On the utility of the NEMIS data, Zohair says the report is prepared by compiling data acquired from provincial EMIS censuses. “The time lag from when the data is gathered to when it is made available is an issue that needs to be resolved urgently. The data should be made available in time for it to feed into policy-making particularly the budget,” he says.
“When the data is available in time, the policies will be made according to the most recent available data. This will go a long way in streamlining policy processes,” Zohair concludes.
*The NEIMS report covers all the federating units including Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJ&K), FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan and also the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). However, this CIRP report discusses only four provinces.
Main image credit: Dawn.com