KARACHI: The Sindh government has failed to take any solid measures for the betterment of education in the province despite changing education ministers.

It was lamented by participants at the launch of an annual report ‘The Political Economy of Education in Sindh in 2021’ produced by the Hari Welfare Association (HWA).

Addressing the event held at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday, HWA’s president Akram Khaskheli said the portfolio of the education department was transferred from Saeed Ghani to Sardar Shah in August 2021, but there was no change in the way the affairs were being run.

He regretted that the ‘Sindh Education Profile’ produced by the Sindh Education Management and Information System (SEMIS) and the Sindh government had not been reported after 2016-2017.

Similarly, the Pakistan Education Statistics was not published by the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) run by the Federal Ministry of Education and Professional Training (FMEPT), after 2017-2018, he said.

“Both reports contained statistical data for understanding the economics and politics of education in Sindh. The federal and provincial governments have stopped publishing data and statistics on enrollment, teachers, and institutions in the province. The absence of these reports clearly reveals the ill intention of the authorities,” he said.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) Executive Director Karamat Ali said that no provincial advisory had been formed as yet. He said that under Article 25-A, education was to be made compulsory and there was also a budget of Rs240 billion allocated for education in Sindh in 2021-22, but there was a problem with the full and proper utilisation of the money.

Indus Resource Centre chairperson Sadiqa Salahuddin said that no committee had been formed at the school level to look into the issue of corporal punishment, even no competent chairperson had been appointed. There was also the issue of 70 per cent children of Sindh suffering from malnutrition, she added.

National Commission on the Rights of Child member Iqbal Ahmed Detho said that according to the United Nations, nine per cent of the GDP should be utilised for education and health.

Peoples Labour Bureau Sindh president Habibuddin Junaidi said that if the number of out-of-school children decreased from 6.7 million to 6.2 million, no one knew that what happened with 500,000 children.

Zulfiqar Shah of Piler pointed out that out of 38,000 schools in the province, only 4,000 were high schools and those were far away from villages, which was the reason for the drop in the education of females. “The condition of technical and physical education centres is even worse condition,” he said.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan vice chairperson Qazi Khizar said the School Education and Literacy Department (SELD) has fallen short of educational requirements and expectations. The Sindh government had done nothing to remove the untrained and bad-mannered teachers. Instead, it had been hiring teachers on a contract basis since 2012, he observed.

According to the report, the provincial government had temporarily terminated corrupt employees and teachers, but they were soon reinstated. SELD created a five-year Sindh Education Sector Plan (SESP) from 2019 to 2024. There were no apparent initiatives in 2021 to meet the aims and targets set out in SELD’s Early Childhood Care and Education Policy (ECCEP), which was introduced in 2017.

In November 2021, SELD notified the revised rules of the School Clustering Policy 2016. The revision was aimed at decentralising education service delivery in Sindh through school clustering for improved education quality and access, overall state of affairs and for decentralisation of certain administrative and financial powers at the grassroots level. However, these rules are the outcome of a top-down bureaucratic approach that has often undermined children’s right to education.

It was said that the Sindh Education Foundation should be an example for SELD. How is the foundation providing quality education in very remote areas of Sindh? The foundation has ensured all basic facilities in schools including trainings for teachers.

SELD’s budget increased from Rs197.368 billion in 2020-21 to Rs222.102 billion in 2021-22 has also been looked into in the report. The authorities have always claimed an increase in the funding, but still 6.3 million children are out of school. The number of schools has also decreased.

The Sindh government has sought funds from foreign donours such as JICA, the World Bank, European Union and USAID. This dependency on foreign donors for education is seen as dangerous, especially for the primary and secondary education sectors.

The year 2021 has been reported to be a year of mega corruption in the education sector but the conviction rates in corruption cases were zero.

According to the HWA, the provincial government has not conducted a fair investigation of the dual desk scandal in which a desk was purchased for Rs29,500 as was alleged by the Transparency International. The lowest evaluated pricing for these tenders obtained from responsive bidders ranged between Rs5,700 and Rs 6,860 per desk, including all taxes.

It has also been noted by the HWA that more than 228 news stories in the local media have highlighted a wide range of issues and problems faced by students, teachers, and parents. These news stories from every corner of Sindh indicate how complex and bad is Sindh’s political economy of education.

Of these 228 news stories, 90 per cent were related to protests by students, parents, and villagers on diverse issues, including non-availability of school building, absence of furniture and basic facilities, absence of teachers, poor condition of school buildings and injuries to students caused by falling school buildings. However, there were also reports about corruption and sexual harassment of students in schools.

The report also points to the fact that over the last 10 years, the number of public schools (with or without buildings) has decreased significantly. The overall number of schools was 49,211 in 2006-07, but that number dropped to 42,383 in 2016-17. Similarly, female schools decreased considerably from 8,958 in 2007-07 to 5,385 in 2016-17, despite being few in number already.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2022

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