I am enormously shocked to have learnt that not unlike the administrative machinery of the education department, the NGOs too do not take initiatives to pull education out of its decrepit state in Sindh. They only publicize the problems and issues. It’s time to be practical in order to improve and lift education up, instead of staying silent.  

On Thursday July 28, 2016, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi, an NGO working in education sector in Pakistan, held the district launch seminar of Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2015, a citizen-led household based initiative to measure the quality of education, at Gymkhana, Shikarpur. The provincial coordinator of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi Sindh, Mumtaz Ali Pirzada said:

“Of the 46,000 total public sector schools in Sindh, 41,000 are primary schools. The Sindh government had allocated 144 billion in budget 2014-15 for education. Out of them, about 118 billion goes in salaries of employees of the department and the remaining amount of funds is kept for infrastructure development. The mismanagement in the utilization of funds issued for the development of infrastructure of schools is responsible for all the problems faced by education system in the province. In the month of April, every year, the divisional and district education officers are given NOC to use funds of millions of rupees, allocated in the budget for whole year, till June 30. As a result 50 percent of funds are lapsed.”

The District Coordinator Reform Support Unit (RSU) Sindh, Nadeem Ahmed Shaikh speaking at the seminar said that the total number of public sector schools in district Shikarpur is 1,173 primary, 86 middle, and 66 high. Of the 1,173 primary schools, 260 are closed, and the overall primary enrollment is 71 percent.  He further added that the transition gap, the gap in enrollment of 5th class students in class 6, with high ratio of dropout of students before reaching class 5, is 50 percent in the district.

The district education managers of Shikarpur, under pressure of higher authorities of the department, and in order to save their jobs, have somehow managed to show 71 percent primary enrollment on paper but, in reality, it is hardly 50 to 51 percent. I personally know a large number of far flung villages, that have remained no-go areas for outsiders including police and teachers for the last 25 years due to tribal clashes and have hardly 15 to 20 percent enrollment.

The deputy district officer education, Safdar Ameer Pahore, rejecting the statistical data presented by Sindh Education Management Information System (SEMIS), the technical branch in education department, about school facilities such as furniture, drinking water, toilets and electricity etc. said that the statistics are unreliable. He said that it is pertinent to mention that the patterns of assessments taken from students by third parties, NGOs and Private institutions, have caused confusion, tension and uncertainty among teachers of public sector schools because the efficiency of the teachers is often tested on the basis of the results of these assessments, while teachers are not provided with trainings on the assessment patterns so they could educate their students accordingly.

The irony in our education system is that everyone—provincial minister, education officers and NGOs working with the education department— in seminars, public gatherings, press conferences, pointing out problems existing in education system including low literacy rate, high dropout ratio, shortage of facilities in schools, shutting down of closed schools and a general lack of quality education, all proclaim that education in Sindh is deteriorating. But I do not understand who is to be held responsible for the deteriorating education and who will seek solutions to these problems?

The prevailing dismal condition of education in Sindh reveals that like the administrative machinery of the education department, the NGOs, working for development of education, have failed to address its problems. Since the NGOs spend a huge amount of funds conducting trainings of their employees and holding seminars, with refreshments offered to guests, in highly expensive hotels. No one can deny the fact that NGOs have proficiency in collecting and communicating information, which is used for formulating policies for future, but have shown disappointing results in practicality.

The pragmatic measures and initiatives, to educate children in real sense, are needed to be taken by all stakeholders in the province. As Din Muhammad Shaikh, one of the speakers at the seminar, rightly said:

“We need to generate creative, critical and analytical minds, providing our nascent generation with thought-provoking education”