KHYBER Pakhtunkhwa’s education sector is plagued by both militancy and mismanagement. While the militants have waged a relentless war on education — exemplified by frequent bombing of schools, particularly girls’ schools — the state has failed to deliver a viable system of public education. It is welcome news that the provincial government intends to carry out a survey of all the schools destroyed by militancy to determine the facts and that USAID will reportedly provide $25 million for their reconstruction. Yet the fact remains that while the government embarks on plans to rebuild schools, militants keep destroying them even if the number of attacks has gone down in recent months. Estimates suggest that around 800 schools have been destroyed, fully or partially, by militants in KP. Many schools have also been destroyed due to flooding over the past few years, while some schools damaged by the 2005 earthquake still await rebuilding. The crisis has been worsened by administrative mismanagement and disconnect. A project for the free distribution of textbooks in the province’s public schools illustrates this well. As reported, there is a wide discrepancy between data collected by two official bodies working under the provincial education department regarding school enrolment. Millions of rupees may have been spent on the supply of textbooks to students who do not exist.
To improve matters on the education front in the province, the problems of both militancy and mismanagement need to be addressed. While an overall improved security environment is essential to protect schools from the attacks of extremists, better management is required on the part of the provincial government to improve educational institutes that so far have not been directly affected by militancy. Wasting precious funds due to possibly faulty data is inexcusable. It is obvious that some things (eg natural disasters) are beyond the provincial government’s control. But it can intervene where there are no physical obstacles to improvement. For instance, it can, with some planning, tackle general incompetence and even the politicisation of educational affairs. Merit, transparency and professionalism must be upheld if the public school system in KP is to be improved.