Planned illiteracy

Published January 15, 2022

THIS refers to the intention of the Sindh government to shut down thousands of schools across the province for being unviable. The decision is said to have been taken on the basis of a survey conducted by the provincial education department’s field teams in September last year.

The decision is simply distressing. Each government school is built after a long and cumbersome bureaucratic exercise that ascertains its operational feasibility. The educational needs of the particular area and the social impact of the proposed school are also taken into account when considering the viability of any educational establishment.

Once a school is approved on paper, a considerable amount of funds is subsequently earmarked and spent on its construction, purchase of furniture, provision of utilities, hiring of teachers, etc. The expenditure is made from public money raised through taxes, where even the poorest of the poor pay their share through general sales tax (GST) on everyday items.

Taking the monumental decision of shutting down such a large number of schools is akin to wasting all the effort and expenditure incurred on establishing them. The government’s claim of the schools being ‘unviable’ also reflects its own incompetence in being able to run these schools. Moreover, the decision to close these thousands of schools is being taken on the basis of a questionable survey completed within a month by the very department that had approved their establishment in the first place!

There was a time when Sindh was known for quality education. Way back in 1936, while bidding farewell to his colleagues from Sindh in the Bombay Legislative Assembly on the occasion of Sindh attaining the status of an autonomous province under the British Raj, Sir Rafiuddin Ahmed had remarked: “Sindh produces two things, men and sand, great men and sandy deserts.” This could only have been possible with the help of well-rounded education system.

Now, unfortunately, the standard of education in the province is one of the worst in the country, as poor utilisation of resources and bad policies have destroyed public-sector education. The government should review its decision of closing such a large number of schools because doing so would only deal another blow to the cause of education in the province. The best course of action would be to constitute committees at the level of union councils, comprising educationists and social workers, to come up with suggestions and means to make these schools functional.

Besides, the relevant department should also take practical steps to address its long-standing governance issues. The aim should be to resuscitate the ailing education system, not tear its limbs.

Dr Muhammad Ali Shaikh Former vice-chancellor, SMIU
Karachi

WINTER AND ENVIRONMENT: As the temperature keeps dropping in Balochistan, so do the trees. It is an utter tragedy that Balochistan produces 40 per cent of the country’s natural gas, but is able to consume only 2pc of it. Hence, people in neglected and remote areas use firewood to cook food and keep their houses warm in order to survive the freezing cold. This large-scale deforestation is damaging the already vulnerable ecosystem of a destitute province.

Noor Saba
Panjgur

POOR SANITATION: The situation in Arija makes it look like a large garbage dump due to choked drains and poor sanitary conditions. The relevant authorities are deliberately ignoring the area despite a number of complaints from the locals. The staff is deputed to specific

areas on a political basis, leaving the majority to fend for themselves. The higher authorities should hold the officials concerned accountable and provide the area with better sanitation services.

Nazeer Ahmed Arijo
Larkana

POWER OUTAGES: Balochistan is rich with natural resources, but is unfortunately facing a lot of problems. The electricity crisis has become a big problem for the locals as they are unable to continue their routine life due to frequent power outages. Cities like Turbat, Gwadar, Khuzdar and Panjgur are facing loadshedding for up to 12 hours. This situation warrants an urgent notice from the higher-ups for immediate remedial steps.

Nasir Alim
Khuzdar

LIBRARY DEMOLITION: The administration of Kurram Parachinar district seems unaware of the importance of books as it is turning the only library in the area, built in 1982, into officers’ quarters. The shifting and demolition work is underway and the books are being moved to an unknown location. This is an act of grave injustice to the local book-loving people. The relevant authorities should stop the demolition work forthwith.

Ali Ullah Turi
Parachinar

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2022

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