Balochistan’s Perpetually Deteriorating Education System
By Shawn Forbes, Canada
One of the most important factors in every successful society is significant and meaningful education. Through strong scholastic institutions; a nation’s people gain the intellectual tools necessary to build and maintain a progressive modern social structure. 19th century American educator and politician Horace Mann said that “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”
Unfortunately in Balochistan the wheels of social progress are broken. An ineffective state government and deeply corrupt academic administration has effectively prevented the common Baloch people from attaining meaningful education. The school buildings are dilapidated and often lack the very basic amenities such as running water, plumbing or electricity. In addition to being deprived of the basic conditions and adequate academic facilities, students in Balochistan often lack the appropriate tools and resources to be successful in their studies.
According to statistics released last year by Alif Ailaan; a non-profit organization, At least 66% of children, between the ages of 5 and 16, in Balochistan, are not attending school. Earlier this year the same NGO reported that fewer than 40% of primary schools in Balochistan were found to have satisfactory building conditions.
The effects of the state government’s failure to implement any practical improvements to the educational system in Balochistan is becoming more and more apparent than ever in recent months. In June, as many as 30 students were arrested by state security forces for protesting the unreasonable delays to their classes at the Bolan medical college. In the following days, regional students continued to protest the conditions of education and unlawful arrests of peacefully protesting students. During the subsequent protests, security forces arrested another 75 students.
A few weeks later, In July, students in Kharan learned that Rs 10,000,000 of scholarship funds intended for the MPA students was distributed exclusively among the relatives and associates of regional administrative officials. According to student activists, that while the qualified and registered students were excluded from the benefits of their scholarships, many of the names of scholarship recipients on the scholarship lists were not even students. Although the students have taken all available legal measures, and held peaceful protests, the inappropriate distribution of their scholarship funds has yet to be resolved.
In September intermediate School Students in Quetta protested the serious irregularities of their exam marks. According to the students they were unfairly given failing grades while other students were given grades impossibly high as 109/100. Once again, security forces enacted a swift crackdown to end the protest; arresting as many as 50 students.
Recently the Quetta govt. girls primary school has officially closed for non-payment of rent. Due to the lack of adequate government funding for education in Balochistan; female students have been enormously impacted. The Female students of universities and colleges in Balochistan have frequently protested the lack of proper learning resources and appropriate facilities.
In addition to the outright deprivation of educational facilities and resources, female students have been regularly victimized by religious extremists. Bombings, acid attacks, threats, discrimination and harassment have become commonplace in Balochistan. Numerous schools and teachers in Balochistan have been threatened, attacked, and forced to close for providing meaningful modern education to girls. In December of 2014 Zahid Askani, the principal of the Oasis private school in Gwadar, was gunned down by unidentified assassins on a motorcycle while on his way to the school. Zahid Askani had founded the Oasis co-education school and English learning center to provide a significant modern education for boys and girls of the area. His efforts were rewarded with 7 fatal gunshot wounds. Martyr Zahid Askani is but one example of countless educators who have been disappeared or embraced martyrdom for their sincere dedication to educating their people and providing the tools for them to become intellectually empowered.
While genuine educators and students are terrorized by death squads and extremist thugs; Balochistan’s state educational infrastructure remains mired in corruption and bureaucracy. According to the Secretary of Secondary Education of Balochistan Abdul Saboor Kakar as many as 50 schools in one district were found to be non-existent or “ghost schools”. In a statement published in February by The International News; The official stated that the ghost-teachers in these districts were drawing funds for salaries and expenditures and claiming 1,800 students were enrolled in an area where only 900 students existed. He added that as few as 18% of students achieve their matriculation.
In a recent interview with Dawn.com The adviser to the Balochistan chief minister on education, Sardar Raza Muhammad Bareech stated that “Despite the government’s recent movement against out of school children, there are still 1.7 million children who are out of school at the moment”
Although the State Government in Balochistan has acknowledged the dismal state of education; they have yet to fulfill their obligations and play an effective role in improving the availability and quality of education in Balochistan. Instead they offer perpetually unfulfilled promises of educational development. In the meantime the educational system in Balochistan continues to rapidly deteriorate, and ultimately the bright young Baloch students are not only deprived of proper education, but are outright robbed of their personal potential and opportunities in life.
Education is the Most Powerful Weapon Which You Can Use to Change the World.” – Nelson Mandela