The future of millions of school-going children in Balochistan has been jeopardised due to gender disparity, bad governance and lack of quality education, said United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Balochistan Representative Qaisar Khan Jamali.
He said gender disparity was increasing in Balochistan.
“In urban areas 30 percent of the school-going children are girls whereas this fraction drops to 26 percent in rural areas,” said Jamali.
“Out of over 12,000 schools in 32 districts of Balochistan only 3,400 schools are for females,” he said.
A recent survey report by the government and non-governmental organisations revealed that 0.59 million children of school-going age in Balochistan had never attended school and 44 percent children (60 percent girls) were presently not enrolled in schools, he said,
According to the UNESCO representative, the impression that Balochistan was a typical tribal society where girls were barred from attending schools was wrong.
The children, both boys and girls of many tribal chiefs were enrolled in renowned institutions across the country, he said, adding that leading Baloch and Pashtun parties such as the National Party and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) were firm supporters of education, particularly for girls.
“PKMAP has held several rallies in the past for encouraging girls education and criticised the previous government’s policies for not giving due attention to this issue,” he said.
“The only way to steer Balochistan out of the current crises is better access of the youth to quality education,” said the MPA-elect from Dera Bugti where the child enrolment in primary schools was the lowest at 27.5 percent with minimum ratio of girl students” enrolment.
He said it was the responsibility of the government to ensure quality education and remove gender disparity by providing equal opportunities to both boys and girls.
A recent survey report released by the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) has questioned the quality of education being imparted in the province.
“The learning ability of school-going age children in terms of reading Urdu, English or doing basic arithmetic is alarmingly poor,” said ITA Provincial Head Syed Tanzeem Akhtar.
“85 percent of class 3 students are not able to read class 2 level Urdu and 64 percent of the students can not solve class 2 level division problems,” he added.
Balochistan’s education department has been without any specific education policy for the last 30 years.
There is no benchmark for hiring and monitoring the work of teachers and no effort is put into the improvement of teaching standards.
“Yes there are issues stopping us from achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” said Planning and Development Department Education Sector official Nawaz Baloch.
He said poor law and order in the province was the main reason for the poor quality of education.
“When female teachers are reluctant to go to rural parts of the province for security reasons, how can we improve girls’ education and resolve the issue of gender disparity,” he deplored.
However, the provincial Education Department has prepared the provincial bill on Article 25A for free and compulsory education and forwarded it to the higher authorities for approval.
Rs 34,898.635 million has been allocated for the education sector in the budget for financial year 2013-14, 37 percent more than the amount allocated in the previous budget.
However, massive reforms are required in the education sector post devolution of the Education Ministry to the provinces.
In his budget speech, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch announced to build 300 new schools besides upgrading 300 existing ones.
His government will, however, have to ensure equal opportunities to boys and girls and the immediate formation of a specific education policy to hire qualified teachers to save the future of millions of students.