Syed Ali Shah
Like other federating units, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, Balochistan has also been empowered to reform its curriculum in the aftermath of the 18th amendment. The Education Department has launched the Balochistan Sector Plan to reform the curriculum and prepare a future roadmap in terms of ensuring provision of education to children.
“The plan gives a vision and method to achieve the future goals”, Secretary Education Balochistan, Ghullam Ali Baloch said. Currently, curriculum prepared by the Federal Government in 2006 is being taught in schools of Balochistan like in other parts of the country.
Nationalists, both Balochs and Pashtoons viewed the curriculum being taught in government-run schools with suspicion since the independence of Pakistan. It has been their long standing demand to reform the education in line with the aspirations of the indigenous people of Baluchistan. The passage of historic 18the amendment allowed them to meet this long standing demand.
Now, the Balochistan Government has decided to include the names and political struggle of visionary Balochs and Pashtoon nationalists’ leaders in the curriculum with an objective of educating the next generation about the sacrifices rendered by the indigenous heroes of the past.
Chief Minister Balochistan, Dr. Malik Baloch led nationalist government appears to be determined to include the name of Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo, Khan Shaheed Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Mir Yousaf Aziz Magsi and other legendary leaders of Balochistan in the curriculum.
“We cannot deceive our young generation, we must make them aware of the struggle of our own heroes”, Dr. Malik Baloch said. The Chief Minister assured that as in the past, the founding father of nation, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal and all those who played role in creation of Pakistan would be also taught in schools. “Nobody should be frightened that we will forget our country’s national heroes”, Dr. Baloch assured.
Apart from reforming the curriculum, the Balochistan cabinet has also approved the free and compulsory bill 2013. “Balochistan Free and Compulsory Education Bill will be presented in the Provincial Assembly,” Baloch said. Under the proposed legislation, the government would be bound to provide free education to children. “Children can even approach the court, in the case, there is no school in their village”, Baloch explained. Balochistan lags behind other provinces in terms of social indicators.
According to World Bank Report 2006, the province stands below other provinces in ten key social indicators i.e. education, health, sanitation, drinking water, literacy etc. The official reports paint a very bleak picture of education in the province. The Secretary Education Ghullam Ali Baloch revealed that more than 2.3 million children were deprived of education in Balochistan. He said the total number of children in Balochistan was 3.6 million out of which only 1.3 million had an access to educational institutions.
“No doubt the situation appears to be grim regarding education”, Chief Minister Balochistan, Dr. Malik Baloch who was also education minister in mid 1990s admits. Moreover, under the Plan 15000 teachers were being recruited to ensure presence of teachers in schools, located in remote-areas of the province. “We will bring back these children to schools”, the Chief Minister, Dr. Malik Baloch said. “If we failed to do so, if would be disastrous”, he added. Criminal silence on the part of government along with other social, political, economic and religious reasons were the main contributing factors for deprivation of student from education.
For the first time, the nationalistled government has allocated 24 percent of total budget for development of education sector in the province. “Our priority is education, since it offers solution to all ills the society”, Dr. Baloch said.
However he admits that there were so many barriers before the government in terms of implementing its Balochistan Sector Plan to reform curriculum, open new schools and ensure presence of teachers in every nook and corner of the area, in the biggest federating unit of the country. The Secretary Education goes a step forward and says that after 18th amendment, now the provinces should devolve powers to districts.
For reforming the curriculum, the education department has approached consultants from Islamabad. Curriculum would be prepared and reformed as per the requirement and wishes of people of Balochistan. “This is technical job, the consultants would only guide us”, Ghullam Ali Baloch said.
Similarly, the teachers would also be trained according to the curriculum. According to Secretary Education the number of primary, middle and high schools across the province was 12600. “More than 2000 schools and more than 3000 teachers were ghost (dysfunctional)”, Ghullam Ali Baloch said. Present government has launched a drive to ensure the presence of teachers in remote areas of the province. The number of government teachers as per the statistics of education department was 56000. Government of Balochistan pays around 2 billion rupees salaries to these teachers, an officer of the provincial finance department said on the condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Madrassahs (religious schools) replaced schooling in most parts of northern Balochistan (the Pashtoon dominated areas) and central Balochistan, Khuzdar, Mastung Kalat and other areas. The Madrassah not only provides religious education it also provides food, accommodation and other basic facilities. However, schools cannot provide the aforesaid facilities. Subsequently, the parents opt to get their kids admitted in seminaries rather than government-run schools. The number of Madrassahs has significantly increased in Balochistan. Sources in Prvoincial Industries Department revealed that around 3000 madrassahs were registered in Balochistan during former military dictator Pervez Musharraf regime. They said the number of unregistered seminaries was more than 10000. “Interestingly all Madrassahs are functional”, Niamatullah Khan, a well-known education said.
Khan said there were around 22000 settlements in Balochistan. The government was able to open up only 12600 schools. Remaining 10000 were still without schools. “Government has to declare education emergency in the province to educate the new generation”, he said.
Bringing reform in curriculum and bringing 2.3 million children to schools is a colossal challenge facing the Dr. Malik Baloch led nationalist government. However it is understood that education offers a solution to the ills of this troubled province, plagued by Baloch insurgency, growing sectarianism and a myriad of other problems.
[Syed Ali Shah is Quetta based journalist and researcher]