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Plight of Public Schools

Yet another edition of the Sindh government’s annual school census report saw the light of the day, recently, depicting the continued helplessness of school-goers and out-of-school children, which simply depicts that all is not well with the majority of children in the province.

The report outlined the overall status of schools, pinpointing an extraordinary dearth of infrastructure and resources needed to carry forward the students of primary classes to secondary classes, among a host of other issues that prevailed for years despite the yearly spending of a huge amount from the government’s kitty in addition to money borrowed from foreign agencies as loans or grants.

Deployment of a big force of education planners, managers, and educators for years also did not yield desired results, which undermined the government for its consistent failures in addressing inadequacies in the school education sector.

Though a delayed-release, the census report, also called the Sindh Education Profile 2019, updated on what the official surveyors and evaluators found in the shape of schools and their respective users on the ground as of October 2018.

According to the report, some details of which were published in this newspaper earlier, the Sindh government was able to accommodate only 18% of the projected population (about 25.8 million) eligible for schooling—right from pre-primary to higher secondary classes. Rest of the target population is either engaged by the private sector educational system, including the madrassahs, and schools run by municipalities, district councils, and other government institutions or staying largely without education at homes.

The report highlighted that during a period of two years, authorities recorded a yearly average increase of 166,006 students at the functional government schools, as 25% of the Sindh government’s schools lied closed or non-functional. In addition to 8,426 (17%) found working in dangerous buildings, the functional schools faced a shortage of 17,711 teachers, while as many as 7,733 schools, including 7,428 primary schools, did not have buildings or shelters, with only 31% of the total school buildings functioning in satisfactory condition.

Hopefully, the Sindh Education and Literacy Department will learn from the comprehensive picture of the education sector portrayed by the census report, given there was a will on the part of the authorities concerned to fix the flaws. Or else the children and their parents will continue to suffer and will finally be outraced in any journey of strength, development, and prosperity in society.

Article 25-A of the Constitution obligates the state to provide free and compulsory quality education to children of the 5-16 age group, which cannot be met unless the federal and provincial governments come up with required measures willfully and honestly. To many observers, the education sector in Sindh, like other provinces, is faced with challenges of mismanagement and corruption, both on the part of education managers and teachers.

The brunt of inadequacy and substandardness in the public school system has ultimately created avenues for the private sector schools, where, unfortunately, the parents face another story of grievances like arbitrary and unchecked increases in tuition fees and other so-called funds.

The province has literally two types of schools – public and Private—and both have different sets of loopholes.

It is high time for the government to do away with the cosmetic measures or merely relying on NGOs and market forces, and ensure revamping of its schools and making them capable as well as accountable. The situation is alarming and demands from all of us to give the most needed importance to education as in the case of civilized societies.

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