By Nizam Baloch
When I reached Government Primary School, Karimabad Issai, Panjgur for reporting, I found a heap of bricks within the premises, literally stumbling while making my way into the building. The classrooms of the school were not any different with an uneven floor without any furniture to sit on. Panjgur, a district in the west of Balochistan, is facing multiple problems including lack of access to quality education.
Especially, public sector schools in the district are on the decline with no signs of improvement.
At Government Primary School, Karimabad, there were more than 50 students last year, but now the number has drastically come down to eight due to lack of basic facilities at the school such as bathrooms, chairs or even a rug for the students to sit on.
One of the remaining students, Hammal Zahoor, who is 10 years old, and in grade four, talked with Pak Voices saying, “We are unable to pay attention to studies as it’s hard to sit on an uneven floor especially during the winter.”
Though on winter vacations these days, Zahoor said, “Day by day it is becoming hard to continue studies here due to lack of basic facilities.”
His father Zahoor Ahmad, said, “we (the community) tried our best to improve the condition of school but there is no response from the government side.”
In the past, the school produced some bright students, many serving in good positions, since its establishment in 1991. Now there is only one teacher left to teach in the school after the retirement of a senior teacher Muhammad Musa. The district administration has been informed about the shortage of teaching staff many times but nothing has been done.
Asim Ameer, a young social activist from the area and a former student of the school said, “I got my primary education from this school nine years ago, the condition of this school at that time was good but now it has turned into debris and this school has become the abode of drug addicts.” He further said, “Parents are admitting their children to the only high school of this union council (Government High school, Issai) which is far away from their homes.”
Badar Saleh, another former student of this school, currently studying law in Bahauddin Zakaria University Multan, recalled his interaction with students, “last year I taught students here for a month voluntarily and found some brilliant students who are eager to quest their thirst for knowledge but they face impediments as they have been deprived of their fundamental right to get standard education.”
He continued, “I personally met with notables, education authorities to ameliorate the condition of this school especially appointment of a new teacher, renovation of the school, constructing bathrooms etc. but so far merely promises and vows have been given.”
When I contacted district education officers and asked them about the deteriorating condition of the school, they tried to shift the blame to the local government. Riaz Saeed, deputy Education Officer in Panjgur said, “After taking power the local government representatives should be questioned as they have the funds to look after such issues; the onus is on them to utilize their funds properly, we always urge them to give priority to education issues,”
He further added, “District education department is committed to cooperate with the local bodies’ government to improve education sector as it is a collective task of all stakeholders”
Contrary to the ground situation, Abdul Malik Saleh, the district chairman of Panjgur, said, “We have funds for the education sector and it is in our party manifesto since day one to give priority to the education sector. We are utilizing our resources skillfully and even in Union Council Issai we have allocated funds and soon the fruit of local government’s efforts would reach to the people.”
Committing to help the Government Primary School, Karimabad, he said, “I encourage the local people to inform me of such issues so that I would do my best to immediately resolve their obstacles as it is my responsibility to do so”
It is not surprising when we hear that approximately 1.8 million students in Balochistan are out of school due to lack of access to the basic education.
Despite bringing to the attention of the local education authorities and local government representatives, little has been done to improve the condition of the school as Ameer lamented, “We for the several occasions informed the responsible education authorities to take action but alas! It seems that our appeals go to deaf ears”
After the winter vacations, Zahoor is likely to leave his school and join Government Higher School as he said, “my father wants me to get admission in high school as my cousins have already left this school so I have no option but to leave this school.” With his departure, the number of students still enrolled in Government Primary School, Karimabad would be reduced to just seven.
About Author: Nizam Baloch is a citizen journalist based in Punjgur, reporting for PakVoices.
Hasan Khan edited this article.