Infrastructure should be built and awareness campaigns undertaken, especially in Balochistan’s rural areas, to highlight the importance of education
Balochistan’s share in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) has declined to 14 percent in 2018-19, from 23 percent in 2014-15. A report byAlif Ailaan says 1,1627 primary schools are registered in Balochistan, of which 1,271 are middle schools and 947 are high schools.
According to UNICEF, 60 to 70 percent children in Balochistan are out of school. 78 percent of girls of school-going age and 67 percent of boys are out of school. One of the main reasons for so many out-of-school children is the long distances between the school and their homes.
In Balochistan, on average, there is a primary school after every 30 kilometres, a middle school after every 260 kilometres, and a high school after every 360 kilometres.
“When it comes to educating girls, we do not have separate schools for them. If someone has relatives in Turbat, Panjgor or Hub, they send their sons over but girls are neglected,” says Haleef Sakhi, a resident of Kolwa. It is believed that a majority of parents in the area think that girls do not need education because they will be married off.
“One of my closest friends from Dasht, a village in district Kech, was upset because she was forced to quit study. She completed her primary education securing good marks but her parents forced her to give up studies because there were no separate schools for girls in their area,” says Shazia Manzoor, a resident of Kech district. “Soon afterwards she was married off.”
Kegad, a resident of Nasirabad, was not allowed to continue her education. ”I wished to become a doctor in order to treat cancer patients in Balochistan. Although I managed to persuade my parents, my aunts were against me getting education. They put pressure on my parents. Soon afterwards I was married off like most other girls.”
Unfortunately, besides one’s parents, permission from other family members is also taken into account for providing education to girls.
The Alif Ailaan report notes that each year 165,869 girls are enrolled in the primary section. Sadly, the number drops to 44,076 in the middle section. It goes further down to only 20,015 in the higher section.
Although we have a very small number of schools in the province, they still do not meet basic requirements for a school, such as boundary walls, potable water and electricity.
The report further states that around 80.50 percent school buildings in Balochistan are in poor shape. Cracks are visible in some of the buildings. Others schools do not even have a building.
“We live in the Bazhdar town of Awaran district. Our village is around 7 kilometres from the main town. A primary school is approved for our village but the government has not allocated funds for a building. As a result, villagers have built a cottage where children take classes,” says Waseem Nood, a villager from Awaran.
Zaheer Doshambay comes to Turbat from a village in Balnigwar, a town in Kech district, to receive education. He says he could not find a single government high school in his village.
“There are several villages in Balnigwar. We do not have any official buildings for our schools. Villagers have managed to make shelters and use them as classrooms. Sometimes teachers refuse to come to our village to give lessons. They are mostly from Turbat and make excuses, citing absence of a proper school building,” complains Zaheer.
Absence of teachers is also a challenge in Balicha, a village some 50 kilometres away from Turbat city.
“We have a Boys High School in our village which (till date) is without a single science teacher. The principal sometimes takes classes as an SST. Classes are not held on most other days,” says Sameer Raees, a local.
He says appointment of teachers on political basis affects the careers of children in not only his village but in the entire Balochistan.
Munaj Gul Muhammad, an LLB student says that availability of internet in schools should be a top priority. He believes that students need to get in touch with the modern world. “Availability of the internet would be the best thing for students. It can help them explore career options.”
Sana Baloch, the opposition leader in Balochistan Assembly, has highlighted the issue providing accurate facts and figures along with his general survey. “Balochistan is lagging behind due to us, the leaders in the political Assembly, who have failed to address the issues related to the basic rights.”
Giving some figures he says, “In Balochistan about 1,800 schools are dysfunctional and over 6,000 schools are run by a single teacher; the other 2,200 schools lack basic facilities.”
He also emphasises the need for public libraries in the province saying, “In Balochistan we have only 16 public libraries. A great number of students preparing for jobs and institutional curriculums simply have no place to go to.”
Despite being the richest province in natural resources and having Pakistan’s biggest economic project — Gwadar — the province has failed to attract funds for its schools.
Many more education institutions for girls should to be built in Balochistan. Awareness campaigns have to be launched, especially in rural areas to highlight the importance of education.
The writer is a student at University Law College, Quetta. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets at @Alijanmaqsood12