IN the provision of basic education, Balochistan is faced with huge gaps in access, quality and equity, accompanied by a host of deleterious effects on the lives of children and on society as a whole.
The province is far behind the national and average provincial levels of literacy, enrolment, progression, attainment, gender parity and in other key educational indicators.
Such a parlous state is intricately linked to the manner in which financial resources are prioritised, allocated, disbursed, managed and monitored for addressing the recurrent and development expenditure on education.
The literacy rate in Balochistan is only 34 per cent compared to national scale of 52 per cent. The female literacy rate in rural areas of the province is only 10 per cent. It should be alarming to note that out of 1.1 million primary schoolgoing children in rural areas of Balochistan, some 0.7 million lack access to school.
It is astonishing that 21 girls colleges in rural areas lack transport facility though the government claimed allocating nearly 110 million to sustain the expenditure of providing this basic facility to every girls college in the province.
Lack of teachers in rural areas has also been a daunting challenge for the government. To fill this vacuum, the government dedicated 5,000 posts provided by the federal government under ‘Aghaz-i-Huqooq Balochistan’ to the education sector.
In the previous year, the provincial government even claimed creating 2000 fresh positions in the Education Department with the commitment to address single-teacher school dilemma.
However, the government has failed to address the dilemma. Broadly speaking, the problem related to education expenditure is twofold: first, the budgetary allocation for education has been quite low and insufficient, compared with the enormity of the educational challenge facing the province.
Secondly, resources that are allocated for education are not fully utilised.
Low budgetary allocation and underutilisation are among the most important factors, due to which the school system of Balochistan remains profoundly dysfunctional and offers no genuine prospects for any reasonable improvement in the near future in enrolment and quality of education, especially for girls.
The problem of under-utilisation is acute and is attributed to fiscal cuts, re-appropriation of resources and delays in disbursement of allocated resources due to complex financial rules and intricacies of inter-tier fiscal transfers.
Society in Balochistan is highly polarised, characterised by nationalist, sectarian and ethnic divisions. There are certain dominant interest groups which exert control over resources for political gains in their respective constituencies.
Therefore, low allocation, fiscal cuts, reappropriation, delays in disbursement and slow work on development schemes, etc., might be an outcome of interplay among political forces as well.
As a result, the amount of resources at the disposal of the education department is likely to substantially increase over the next few years, inevitably increasing the financial management challenge.
In addition, the provincial government has resumed the older system of budgeting by withdrawing the devolved financial responsibilities from the district education department. This development offers some opportunities for effective expenditure management due to availability of better capacities at the provincial level but at the same time risks of misplaced allocations, reappropriation and delays in disbursement may arise due to strong political and bureaucratic dispensation at the provincial level.
BAHRAM SALEEM Turbat