GWADAR: Candidates of different political parties contesting the election from PB-51 (Gwadar) have said there is an acute shortage of primary and secondary schools and there is also a need to boost educational standard so that students passing out of the institutions could take full advantage of the opportunities created in the area by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

The electoral candidates made these observations at a gathering arranged by Baamsaar, a non-governmental organisation, on Saturday.

They said that there was lack of basic facilities in schools in the area and this was contributing to poor standard of education there.

Those who spoke on the occasion were Mir Hamal Kalmati of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), Khuda Ali Baloch of the National Party, Saeed Baloch of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, and independent candidate Owais Iqbal.

A large number of residents of the area, parents of students and civil society activists attended the event.

They expressed concern that in the area that was soon going to become the trade hub of the region, it was alarming to see how little the investment had been made to improve Gwadar’s schools to match ambitions and opportunities for area youths created by CPEC in the area.

They disclosed that 80 per cent of all schools in the district were meant for primary education, with only two higher secondary schools and students passing out of all these primary schools did not have enough secondary schools to accommodate all the passed out students of primary schools, leading to drop-outs. Furthermore, only 33 per cent of all schools in the district were meant for girls as compared to 67 per cent for boys, putting girls at a disadvantage in comparison to boys.

In terms of infrastructure, they said, a large percentage among 278 schools in the port city lacked basic facilities.

According to Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016, 25 per cent students of Class 5 cannot read a sentence from Urdu/Pashto book meant for Class 2; 23 per cent students of Class 5 cannot read a sentence from the English book meant for Class 2; and 29 per cent of students of Class 5 cannot do a two-digit division from a book meant for Class 2.

Besides, the report says, there was shortage of subject specialist teachers in both boys and girls schools and lack of science labs and because of this situation, quality education had taken a massive hit in the area schools for the past several years.

Speaking on the occasion, Mir Hammal Kalmati of BNP-M said that “we will only be able to take full advantage of CPEC if we educate our children at this point”.

Mr Owais Iqbal questioned how children, who did not have water and electricity in their homes, would be able to attend schools.

He said that his only desire to contest election was to be able to highlight these important problems at the provincial assembly and to ensure that every child of the area was able to attend school and acquire education.

Mr Saeed Baloch of Jamaat-i-Islam claimed his success in coming elections would mean success of the area children who study in 140 shelterless schools in Gwadar as he would push for construction of proper buildings for these schoolchildren.

He also promised to set up five new schools equipped with latest facilities in the area.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2018