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June 21, 2021

Study terms Sindh’s education system ‘nothing but entangled economy’

A study on the education system in Sindh has termed the entire education system of the province an entangled political economy, and stated that no improvements have been observed in the school education respite various programmes introduced by the provincial government and donor agencies.

The study, titled ‘The Political Economy of Education in Sindh in 2020’, has been published by the Hari Welfare Association (HWA). It reads, ““Sindh's education system and governance is nothing, but an entangled political economy, in which children and the future of the province, and perhaps of the state, are compromised.”

According to the report, although the provincial government, donors and international agencies introduced several programmes, the number of out-of-school children in the province did not reduce and there were currently around 6.4 million children not attending schools in Sindh, of whom 53 per cent were girls.

The study claims that the Sindh Education Sector Plan (SESP) 2014-21 and the SESP 2019-24 were prepared without consultation as the plans overlooked genuine issues such as 24 per cent schools having 68 per cent of the total enrolment whereas 76 percent schools having only 32 per cent of it in the province.

It states that officials of the school education and literary department (SELD) are not serious about achieving results up to the mark. Owing to their negligence, the education sector, especially from the primary to the higher secondary levels, presents a sorry picture.

Facilities and enrolment

The study reveals that the number of state-run schools decreased from 49,211 in 2007-08 to 42,383 in 2016-17. Similarly, the number of girl schools, which were already scarce in numbers, significantly reduced from 8,958 in 2007-08 to 5,385 in 2016-17. From 2017 to 2020, the number of schools did not increase, but an increase was observed in the enrolment.

“It is not known through what magic stick, the out-of-school children had sharply decreased,” the report reads. It claims that during the three years, the population of children had risen, which actually led to an increase in the out-of-school children.

In September 2019, around 8,000 ghost schools were uncovered in Sindh. There were some schools that were closed but regular salaries were being issued to their teachers.

The education statistics in Sindh for 2016-17 show that of the 42,383 schools in the province, 39,167 were functional and 3,216 closed. In 2017, most public schools in Sindh lacked basic facilities. Fifty three per cent of primary and secondary schools did not have drinking water, and 50 per cent of the boys schools and 47 per cent of the girls schools did not have toilets.

In July 2020, the Sindh education minister informed the provincial assembly that there were approximately 6.2 million children out of school in the province. However, the HWA contends that the figure of 6.2 million out-of-school children was not true, and the number of out-of-children, which was 6.7 million in 2017, had actually increased in 2020, instead of decreasing to 6.2 million.

Girls education

According to the study, “Of the total eight million students enrolled in educational institutions from primary to degree level in Sindh, only 42 percent were girls. Most girls' schools in Sindh lacked basic facilities like boundary walls, toilets, and drinking water.”

From pre-primary to degree colleges, of the total 55,247 public and private educational institutions, 21 per cent were specified for girls. The ratio was worse in the rural areas where only 15 per cent educational institutes were specified for girls.

“The low number of girls-only schools, especially in rural areas of Sindh, shows lack of female teachers. Only 32 per cent of female teachers in public institutions are related to the teaching workforce. This percentage is lower than the national average of 42 per cent, and unfortunately, [below] than Balochistan and FATA, which is 33 per cent”.

Huge budget

In the fiscal year 2020-21, the Sindh government had allocated around 20 percent of the total budget for transforming education. However, independent assessments were not conducted to observe if the desired targets and goals were achieved or not.

“Over the last decade, the government’s focus on transferring education responsibilities to private organisations and individuals is one way to run away from the political, civil, and financial accountabilities and duties. But the Constitution of Pakistan and laws make the provincial government responsible because such indicatives have created serious legal issues,” the report reads.

Refugee children

It states that like millions of refugee children in other countries, the refugee children in Sindh faced grim realities because of legal, political, policy and social barriers. The refugee children in Sindh, especially in Karachi, are from Afghanistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

In 2020, 60,000 such children were estimated to be living in Karachi with little or no opportunities for completing secondary level education.

The report also highlights the issue of education of juvenile prison inmates, both the convicted and the under-trial. Although such children are tiny in numbers compared to about 6.4 million out-of-school children, they have been deprived of the right to education in their places of detention.

Financial corruption

The study mentions various cases of corruption in the school education department in the province.

During 2020, the Sindh anti-corruption department arrested SELD Human Resource Director Muhammad Hussain Soomro who was allegedly involved in collecting bribes from 950 contractual teachers against the promise of making them permanent teachers in public schools.

In June 2020, in Ghotki district, two officials of the SELD were arrested over allegations of involvement in fake appointments and tampering with government records.

In August 2020, the Anti-Corruption Establishment arrested a grade 19 officer, Siddique Shahani, serving as the assistant district officer education Matiari, for his involvement in bogus and illegal recruitment. In September 2020, four SELD officials were sent to prison for five years for bogus appointments.

In September 2020, the National Accountability Bureau’s executive board gave approval to conduct investigations against some SELD officials and a notification was also issued in this regard.

On March 3, 2020, the Sindh High Court (SHC) sacked the Sindh Textbook Board chairperson, Agha Sohail, and ordered new appointment on the position within 15 days. A petition had been filed in the court stating that the court had ordered the removal of the chairperson on March 20, 2018, on corruption charges but despite the judicial orders, Sohail was working on the post. The SHC also issued a contempt-of-court notice to the chief secretary and sought a reply by March 9, 2020.

No statistics

Although the provincial government has been allocating budget for the Reform Support Unit functioning under the SELD for the collection of public schools data, for the last three years, the unit has not published annual education statistics.

The Sindh Education Profile 2017-2018 and onwards are not available but the provincial government has claimed that it had collected the data.

Similarly, for the last few years, the Sindh Education Management & Information System (SEMIS) has not been working. As part of the SELD, the SEMIS was responsible for tracking all public sector schools in the province.

Recommendations

The study recommends that the Sindh government announce education emergency in real terms by providing a plan of action, which should be prepared in consultation with the relevant stakeholders. The SELD department should update its website every week by uploading updated statistics, the study says.

Within five years, male teachers in primary schools should be replaced with female teachers to increase girls’ enrolment. The government should also set a target of constructing 10,000 schools in the same period.

The government should liaise with international training institutes to bring volunteer teachers from develop countries.

Another recommendation is that in the budget speeches, the SELD budget should be announced separately from all other education budgets. The school education budget did not receive an adequate increase in the budget but in the budget speeches, the CM received praise for increasing the overall education budget, which did not specifically benefit the school education, the study says.

The report also calls for introducing a system and mechanism from the community to the provincial level to implement the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2013.