Balochistan backwardness in all spheres of life is the most talked about but least acted upon topic in the past and present. Despite all promises and commitments since beginning made by rulers both civil and military, in the corridors of power at provincial and country level for the development and bringing up the province at far with other federating units, have gone up in the smoke so far.
The portrait emerged in the province reflecting a bleak picture, due to its fifth longest and bloodiest insurgency, an army of unemployed youth, diminishing agriculture opportunities due to depletion of underground water, non-existence of industries, lack of basic infrastructure, means of livelihood and above all bad governance since long. In fact, province is still lagging behind in all walks of life, particularly health and education.
Here, I would like to highlight some bright and bold steps taken by the previous government at provincial level for the improvement of education sector at secondary schools’ level, which will definitely contribute a lot in uplifting the education and providing opportunities to out of school’s children and retaining children already in the public sector school system.
Last year, secondary schools’ education department Government of Balochistan , in my incumbency as Secretary education, successfully prepared a document namely, “Balochistan education sector plan 2020-25“ BESP (five years plan), consisting of 250 pages with financial help of GPE, “global partnership in education” , with technical help of UNICEF including other stakeholders and the Government of Balochistan finally accorded approval of the said plan.
Balochistan, despite all shortcomings, in terms of Human and financial Resources, was the first among the federating units to prepare and approve such robust and revolutionary documents in education sector in the country. This document has been prepared with in the ambit of articles 25-A and 37-b of 1973 constitution (18th amendment 2010) , Balochistan compulsory education act 2014, article 26 of the human rights declaration, and SDGs “sustainable development goals “- 4,5,8 , respectively.
Sector Plan has been based on a detailed education sector analysis through comprehensive consultative process and proposed a major recommendation pertaining to weak areas in the public education sector.
It has mainly focused on four weak and ignored thematic areas in education sector. (1) Access/participation 2, learning, 3)governance/management and 4) data and research, with aim to ensure an efficient and effective education system at secondary level in the province.
Access to primary education is the basic right of every child. Providing these constitutional rights to every child in the province was great challenge to the provincial government without proper planning and financial resources.
This document has recommended a phased out five-year plan to bring more than 1.16 million 40% out of school’s children in the province and retain 1.74 million 60% already enrolled in the public schools, particularly providing access to, retaining and reducing the drop out ratio of girls’ students in the public schools. The dropout rate of boys and girls at primary level is about 23 and 21 % respectively as per survey conducted in the year 2020.
Second focused area in the document is learning. The learning crisis in the province is too deep that all surveys conducted in this regard shows that the children even can’t read and write a single sentence in the class. Therefore, reading, numeracy and analytical ability have been focused. Learning design to address the needs of child in the class room and researched based curriculum framework and scheme of studies have been planned. Further a review of the current school language policy ( English and Urdu in early grades) which is hindrance in the development of reading and thinking ability in the children has been recommended.
A child-centred school language policy based on his or her linguistic advantage will be developed. Further fundamental flaws were noted in the text books that included fed back mechanism and inadequately developed standards.
This plan recommended preparation of contextually-relevant text books that can help teachers and children in developing creative and analytical abilities rather than rote learning process.
This plan has also addressed teachers’ shortage of certain subjects like English and mathematics, lack of required number of teachers, the teachers training and performance in the class, teachers motivation and involvement of teachers in decisions making process, reviewing of career structure, promotion, improvement in working conditions in schools including reduction in single school’s teachers.
Elimination of ghost-schools, ghost-teachers and absenteeism, test-and-merit-based teachers’ recruitment, putting an end to political induction and interference, removing corruption in posting, promotion and transfer, compulsory pre service teachers training has been focused.
Poor governance and weak management at all levels was another serious issue at primary and secondary level. This plan has recommended drastic changes at policy and framework level by suggesting strategic planning for placing efficient and inclusive management at all levels. Effective accountability and increased transparency for improvement of governance coupled with constructive political engagement with senior political leaders for the betterment of education at secondary level has also been focused.
The last not the least was the data and research. These two things were completely ignored in the past, which resulted in poor governance and lack of proper planning. Proper collection of data and conduct of extensive research for development of policies and plan is proposed.
This document, so far, has attracted over more than seven billion rupees foreign assistance from GPE in education sector for upgrading existing schools and establishment of new primary schools throughout the province including recruitment of teachers for those schools.
Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has already released / allocated US$ 20 million to Government of Balochistan. The funds are being utilized through UNICEF, being Grant Agent for GPE. The funds allocated by GPE will be utilized during the period 2020-25.
Due to this document, the European Union (EU) has also released / allocated € 18 million to Government of Balochistan, which is going to be utilized during the period 2020-24. UNICEF is the Grand Agent / Implementing Partner of EU. The
Further World Bank has also released / allocated US$ 18 million to Government of Balochistan under Balochistan Human Capital Investment Project (BHCIP).
Another international donor organisation, “Education Cannot Wait”, (ECW) has also released / allocated US$ 5.28 million to Government of Balochistan, School Education Department, for improvement of access to education for marginalized communities including Afghan Refugee Children.
This plan, if implemented holistically in its true sense, will cost about 72.75 billion rupees over a period of five years to the government of Balochistan. Further 17% Yearly increase in regular PSDP allocation for secondary education sector has been recommended and this amount of annual increase in allocation has been committed by the government of Balochistan in the annual donors’ conference organised by GPE and held in London last year in the month of August 2021, where representatives of four provinces including me on behalf of the government of Balochistan have made this commitment.
Though the province, so far, has received sufficient financial resources from international donors in line with BESP, 2025 program. But contrary to commitments made, the provincial government has allocated an amount of 69.550 billion, 15.48% in the year 2021 and 85.161 billion, 17.6% of the total provincial budget for secondary education, which is less than committed amount. The provincial government must allocate more financial resources to ensure the flow of funds from international donors and honour the commitment made with them.
For Pakistan particularly the province of Balochistan, to emerge from the quagmire of abject poverty, ignorance and deprivation, there is one – and only one – way forward: to divert its resources to secondary, higher and technical education, science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. Now in the presence of this policy document, it is high time for the politicians and authorities in Balochistan to declare a national education emergency in the province, which will involve several steps, particularly implementation of BESP 2020-25, to change the strategic directions of the province from the present low value-added education sector to a strong knowledge-based education system at primary and secondary level. No doubt that key to peace and progress lies in the strengthening of the education at gross route level . Conscious, civilised and developed nations have prioritised the future of their young generation by educating, grooming, and preparing their children for careers and professions, have focused on primary and secondary education first.
Balochistan government took lead in the country by approving 2020-25 five years plan costing 72 billion rupees and an annual 17% increase in annual allocation for secondary education. Now, it is high time , to implement this plan in it’s true sprite. This will not only secure and ensure the future of our children and grandchildren but will also open the gate of foreign donors to spend more in education sector in the province.
Sher Khan Bazai, former Secretary Education. Balochistan Pakistan , The writer can be reached at [email protected]