The lack of good education in the province has enchained the people in the status quo and prevented them from experiencing any change in their life since the colonial era. colonial masters were interested in construction of railway and road networks for their strategic gains rather than establishment of educational institutions for uplifting of the public from the darkness. Education has always been a dream for the people of Balochistan even after independence, which clearly shows that education never has been a priority of the ruling elites. Despite the fact that education is a potent agent of change in the society, Consequently, the social structure is medieval and largely rural, with a very small class at the top, the majority at the bottom, and very few people in between (the middle class). In addition, society is nomadic and firmly rooted in the Sardari system, thereby creating serfdom. More than 80% population lives in rural areas under abject poverty and illiteracy, even our urban centres especially the capital Quetta, is a picture of a slum; the streets are clogged with trash, and there are sewers and broken roads everywhere.
Education is a prerequisite to improving quality of life, health, and livelihoods; it contributes to social stability and drives long-term economic growth, making it essential to the success of everyone. It helps people become better citizens, helps with problem-solving, creates opportunities, and is essential for personal development. But due to the lack of representation of Balochistan in the Pakistani federation, particularly in the federal bureaucracy, higher judiciary, army, and other institutions of national stature to protect their rightful share, therefore, there were hardly any educational institutions in Balochistan from primary to college level until the 1970s.
Though we got our first higher education institution, Balochistan university, medical college and independent Board of intermediate and secondary education, in the year 1970, before former British Chief Commissioner’s Province of Baluchistan and Baluchistan States Union, which were primarily Pashtoon and Baloch populated areas, were combined and given provincial status by the 1973 constitution.
Since then, the province’s population has witnessed the mushroom growth of educational institutions from primary to higher education levels on political rather than needs based, especially after the 18th Amendment and the seventh NFC award. However, the province is still in intellectual poverty for a variety of reasons that are deeply rooted in the past and present, most notably the federal and provincial governments’ blatant ignorance of the education sector.
The vast area and thin and dispersed population, the province’s limited financial resources and inadequate budget allocation for education sector, the lack of sensible, honest, competent, and committed leadership due to the immature and semi tribal political culture, the interrupted flow of funds from the federal government under the NFC, a lack of proper planning, and opposition to changes in how contemporary education is structured, unnecessary political interference, low priority given to education, lack of indigenous participation in policymaking, low-quality curricula and textbooks, population growth that is out of control, poverty, and unemployment, low-quality teachers, irrelevant induction and overtaking of political gains rather than needs in development expenditures, lack of political will, ineffective and irrelevant appointments in education administration, poor assessment system last but not least is the lack of commitment for education by both society and the government are some of the factors contributing to the decline of the education sector in the province.
Despite investing billions of rupees annually from its limited financial resources in the education sector, the government of Balochistan has not yet succeeded in providing quality education to the public with the objectives set for transformation through education and is currently facing several challenges, the foremost among which is the substandard education provided by both public and private sector schools, one that forces residents of the province to endure two different kinds of challenges:
The first issue is that families in the province spend a significant portion of their money on their children’s education, sending them to other provinces for all levels of school. In terms of private educational spending. Parents in the province are compelled to pay expensive tuition fees and ensure that their children receive a quality education by enrolling them in private schools within the province or in other provinces. According to a UNESCO report, 30% of secondary and tertiary students, 40% of pre-schoolers’, 20% of primary school students, and 8% of seminary students in the province attend privately owned schools.
The second issue is that despite the fact that individuals invest a significant portion of their wealth in the education of their kids, the majority of them leave school without the desired outcomes. Three categories may be used to further categorize the causes of that. The first category includes students whose preschool or primary education is not enriching because research shows that this is when kids learn best and kids who graduate from better preschool and elementary schools have enhanced educational readiness, pre-literacy skills, helps promote language skills, greater cognitive, motor, and emotional skills that develop their personality. It teaches kids to learn what results in them earning more later. These kids now have to shoulder more responsibility to compete with individuals whose preschool and primary education was completed at posh schools.
The second category includes students who are sent to other provinces to complete their education but do not return with fruitful results. The reasons for this include accommodation issues in other provinces, where they do not have the home environment that students from those other provinces have, transportation issues, and all other minor issues related to housing, such as cooking, laundry, and managing bills, which take a toll on them. The most important of these is the homesickness that students, particularly school and college students, face, as well as the language barrier they face in effectively befriending and fitting in with students from other provinces because their mother tongues are different, and students from Balochistan lack the proper accent and vocabulary for both English and Urdu, which are a basic mode of communication for children from those provinces. This, in turn, leads to cultural barriers because these students are never given the opportunity to effectively study their culture and express their cultural identity to them.
The third category includes students whose families, particularly their parents, are uneducated. Because, when we compare parents, particularly moms, in Balochistan to progressive provinces like Sindh and Punjab, both fathers and mothers are educated. The fact that students spend only six hours a day in class and eighteen hours at home with their families and friends, this has a significant impact on how well they perform academically. Today, students with educated parents have more advantages in that they receive more academic support at home, have better communication with their parents about their education and future prospects, receive better mentoring, and are exposed to an academic culture at home, which instils in them good academic habits like reading, debating various topics, discussing ideas rather than people, and overcoming language barriers by speaking English or Urdu with their parents at home rather than relying solely on the mother tongue. They generally have more opportunities overall.
Unfortunately, our politicians since the beginning have merely exploited the “priority of education” and “education for all” slogans as superficial slogans to win the votes—a slogan that they forget soon after assuming power. As a result, the standard of education in state schools is falling persistently. The government needs to enhance education allocation in the budget and prioritize focusing on state schools to bring down educational expenses in the province and make education accessible for all. Formulate short-, mid-, and long-term policies and strategies. However, all such measures will not be fruitful until and unless, in the light of the 18th Amendment, an independent Provincial Education Commission is established in line with HEC at the federal level and provincial commissions in other provinces.
The establishment of such a commission necessitates political will and increased resources at both the federal and provincial levels. The proposed commission should be autonomous in its functions, creating policies, making decisions, and carrying them out without political interference and from any other irrelevant quarters . It must be adequately funded and staffed with highly qualified and suitable employees. Once constituted, the commission will break the existing status quo and bring a sea of change and improvement to the province’s education sector, ultimately contributing significantly to social harmony, political stability, and economic development in the long run.
Sher Khan Bazai, The writer is retired from civil service as a Secretary of Education, Balochistan. He can be reached at [email protected].