Scores of primary schools become a liability to KP

Published February 8, 2015
Students of Pakistani  Government Girls Comprehensive Higher school study outside their school while waiting for a transport in Abbottabad.— AP/file
Students of Pakistani Government Girls Comprehensive Higher school study outside their school while waiting for a transport in Abbottabad.— AP/file

PESHAWAR: Of the 20,100 government primary schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, more than 4,000 are under-enrolled and thus, becoming a liability to the government.

The relevant officials blame it on the opening of educational institutions on political grounds at unsuitable locations.

According to them, a primary school with less than 40 students is considered under-enrolled.

Since primary schools offer six classes from nursery to fifth grade, under-enrolment means they have less than seven students in every class.

The officials said most of such schools existed in Abbottabad district (520) followed by Mansehra (470), Bannu (380), DI Khan (300), Haripur (260), Chitral (221), Karak and Lakki (211), Kohistan (180), Charsadda (171), Batagram (157), Swat (120), Swabi (117), Kohat (115), Mardan (95), Dir Payan (89), Nowshera (80), Peshawar (75), Malakand (70), Shangla (56), Tank (50), Hangu (42), Upper Dir (40), Buner (39) and Torghar (20).

Officials say over 4,000 schools opened on political grounds have less than 40 students

Mostly such schools exist in rural areas, especially in far-off districts.

A senior official of the elementary and secondary education department told Dawn that under-enrolled schools were an unnecessary burden on the kitty.

“Opening schools away from population places a large financial burden on the government in the shape of payment of salary to staff and utility bills,” he said.

Another official said government schools were overcrowded in urban areas but the government was unable to set up more due to the high prices of land.

He said the successive governments opened schools in different parts of the province on political grounds just to please voters and appoint Class IV staff members of their choice.

The official said the establishment of such schools violated rules by and large.

He said under the rules, two kanals of land and the enrolment of 40 students in one year was a requisite for the opening of a new primary school.

“Most under-enrolled schools are located away from population in mountainous areas. Accessing them is very difficult for students and staff members,” he said.

The official claimed the current PTI government was no different from its predecessors as it had been opening educational institutions, especially primary ones, at unsuitable locations.

He said the establishment of 160 new primary schools across the province was part of the Annual Development Plan 2014-15 but it would be the chief minister to decide about where they should be set up.

“Every new school is opened on the special directives of the chief minister,” he said.

An educationist said new schools should be constructed on need basis instead of political ones.

He said the education department should be empowered to conduct a survey and identify the areas needing schools.

When contacted, additional secretary of E&SE Qaisar Alam Khan held the district education officers responsible for the approval of new schools at inappropriate places.

He said the chief minister ordered the opening of new schools in the constituencies of MPAs but they should be opened at suitable places after the approval of the relevant DEOs.

“The DEOs should resist MPAs wanting new schools in the areas away from the population,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2015

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