EARLIER this week, the provincial education department informed the Sindh High Court that 11,850 primary schools out of 38,132 in the public sector could possibly be declared ‘not viable’ after a proposed assessment of low- and no-enrolment schools is conducted. The schools that do not meet the standards of enrolment, availability of teachers, basic infrastructure and amenities, etc may be shut down as a way of ensuring that funding goes to the right places — that would mean an estimated 31pc of all primary schools in the province could potentially be shut down. The figure is alarming, especially given that some 6m children in Sindh are already out of school. The closure of such a large number of schools in a province where there is already a shortage of schools and where issues of distance and transportation exist raises serious questions about what went into planning when these schools were made in the first place, and where was the money going all this time. And while Sindh has a large network of primary schools, sometimes several within one low-attendance locality, there is a dearth of middle and high schools.
Education is the constitutional right of all Pakistani children from the ages of five till 16, and a universal human right. With the propping up of private schools across the country, the government has been accused of abdicating its responsibility of providing quality education to its citizens. But many parents cannot afford private schooling, and are dependent on the government to provide free-of-cost education. The Sindh government has undertaken some commendable steps in improving the state of government schools over the years by streamlining administrative processes, increasing the education budget from Rs145bn in 2014-15 to Rs202bn in 2017-18, and introducing new reforms such as biometric verification, merit-based recruitment of teachers, and standardised testing of students. While there has been an increase in student and teacher attendance thanks to these reforms, it is not at the desired level and much more is required.
Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018