REPORTS from across the country point once again to the dismal state of primary education in rural Pakistan. Fifty girls’ primary schools in rural Peshawar have no teachers to speak of. Meanwhile, according to a survey carried out by this paper, at least 30 girls’ and boys’ schools have been inoperative, some for many years, in just two union councils of Dadu. Both NGOs and government officials admit this is a problem in villages across the district. In what has now become a familiar story, abandoned school buildings were found being used as cattle pens and guest houses. Locals said they were waiting for teachers to be posted or to start showing up for duty.
What makes the reports even more alarming is that officials at the highest levels seem to be fully aware of these issues. There also appear to be plans and instructions in place for resolving them that are simply not being implemented by the provincial education departments. The situation outside Peshawar exists despite a ‘rationalisation policy’ — instituted over a year ago — that was meant to redistribute teachers; schools in Peshawar’s urban areas have more teachers than they need, in part because higher rent allowances and greater security in urban areas have encouraged teachers to apply for transfers away from their rural postings. Even that plan would have resulted in a ratio of just one teacher for every 40 students, but has not been executed. In Dadu, district-level bureaucrats claim the problem had been acknowledged by the provincial chief minister and education secretary and that instructions had been issued to lower-level officers to reopen schools and stop payments to absentee teachers. However, even as officials continue to pay lip service to the cause, the children of rural Pakistani have little but empty school buildings to look forward to.