The total spending in Pakistan to run the government schooling system has in the recent past exceeded the defence budget of the country. The startling disclosure to this effect was made by Zahid Saeed, industrialist and the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Green Crescent Trust (GCT), a non-profit organisation, while speaking at a reception held in the honour of three dignitaries, including himself, who recently became recipients of the coveted civil awards of Pakistan.
The reception was organised by the representative association of the Punjabi Saudagaran-e-Delhi community to celebrate the conferment of civil awards upon the GCT CEO and two other dignitaries.
Saeed told the audience that the research wing of his non-profit organisation had conducted a study in recent years to determine the total spending by the provincial governments in the country on their schooling systems after the subject of education was devolved to the provinces under the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
The industrialist explained that the study completed in 2020 and it showing that the four provincial governments, the Islamabad capital territory, and the Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir governments had spent a total of Rs1,280 billion in a year to run the government-run schools.
He said that such massive spending had even exceeded the defence budget of Pakistan in that year that had a volume of around Rs1,200 billion.
He said the findings of the study conducted by his non-profit had been duly shared with the top defence authorities, the president of Pakistan, governors and relevant officials of the provincial governments who were also amazed by the findings.
Saeed informed the audience that the Sindh government in the current financial year alone had allocated a sum of Rs340 billion to keep its schools functional.
He said that every government in Pakistan had been spending 20 to 25 per cent of their total annual budgets on their schools. “Despite so massive spending by the state annually on the government schooling system, their graduates are unable to serve society in a productive manner,” he lamented.
He said the affluent families were not willing to enrol their children in government schools as the quality of education imparted by them was highly unsatisfactory.
The GCT CEO said the conferment of the prestigious Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by the government had encouraged him and his fellow philanthropists to accelerate their charitable drive for achieving the noble cause of enrolling out-of-school children in Sindh.
He told the audience that the GCT had been founded 29 years back with just one charitable school in an underprivileged locality of Karachi’s District West having an enrollment of just 50 students.
He added that at present, the GCT had increased the number of its charitable schools to 166 having an enrollment of over 31,700 students.
He reiterated his resolve to work along with like-minded non-governmental organisations and charities to expeditiously tackle the menace of illiteracy in Sindh.
Sara Ahmad, chairperson of the Children Protection & Welfare Bureau of the Punjab government, who was one of the other two dignitaries honoured at the event, told the audience that she had recently met Caretaker Sindh Chief Minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar and assured him of her fullest support for activating the Sindh Child Protection Authority on the lines of its counterpart in Punjab.
She said that much work had to be done to resolve the issue of child labour, child sexual abuse, child beggars and out-of-school children in Sindh and her services were fully available for these noble causes.
She appealed to the business fraternity of Karachi to contact her immediately to get her help for the due protection of the rights of children in the city.
The third Sitara-e-Imtiaz recipient honoured at the ceremony, businessman Muhammad Saeed Allawala, urged the youth in the country to get higher education and acquire advanced skills for playing their due part in overcoming economic woes.
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