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PESHAWAR: Around 250 government schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have long been functioning with less than 10 students each due to their establishment at inappropriate places, say officials of the elementary and secondary education department.

According to officials, 150 of these educational institutions are for boys and 93 for girls.

Among them are 132 primary schools, 71 Maktab schools (those offering primary education in mosques), 37 middle schools and three high schools.

“The average enrolment in a class of such schools is two, while in some schools, only one student is enrolled in every class,” a senior education department official told Dawn on condition of anonymity.

The official said the land and buildings of such schools had gone to waste due to their establishment by the successive governments at ‘unfeasible’ places.

He said the then education department bosses were to blame as they yielded to the pressure of lawmakers of the ruling parties to allow the establishment of schools at unsuitable places.

Under the education department’s criteria, primary schools with less than 40 students are considered under-enrolled or under-utilised.

According to officials, 1,720 government schools in the province have enrolled more than 10 and less than 30 students each.

Such schools include 822 for boys and 897 for girls.

Of them, 1418 are primary schools, including 734 for girls and 684 for boys; 287 middle schools, including 157 girls and 130 boys, and 14 high schools, including eight for boys and six for girls.

An official said most of schools with low enrolments were located in rural areas, especially in far- off districts of the province.

He said government schools in urban and semi-urban areas were overcrowded.

“In urban areas, the department can’t set up the required number of schools due to high prices of land,” he said.

When contacted, elementary and secondary education minister Mohammad Atif Khan said his department had been merging schools having low enrolments with the nearest ones.

“Though merger of such schools have drawn the people’s criticism, it is necessary to check the misuse of government resources,” he said.

The minister said in the past, many schools were established just to please voters and create few vacancies for appointing men of elected representatives.

When reminded that schools have been established even during the PTI government merely on the directives of the chief minister, the minister said primary schools could be established in the areas with the possible enrolment of 30 students.

He claimed the education department had declined the establishment of schools at ‘unfeasible’ places despite the chief minister directives.

“We have taken disciplinary action against several district education officers for allowing establishment of schools in unfeasible areas,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2015

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