Target killings of teachers in Balochistan have forced them to stop performing their duties
By Syed Zubair Shirazi
The modern world which leads us in every field of life achieved its goals mainly because of their education system which guarantees a secure and prosperous future to their generations by making them a productive component of society. But, sadly, when we take a look at the affairs in Pakistan we have to regrettably observe that education sector, undeniably the only key to success, has not got the attention, which is evident from its share under the country’s annual budget.
Among South Asian countries, if we would have followed the example of Sri Lanka, plight of our education sector had not been deplorable to the extent as we witness at present .Sri Lanka is a very small country which remained confronted with a civil war over three and a half decades. Having personally observed the competence of Sri Lankan education system which I did during my ten-day visit to Sri Lanka to attend a Conflict Reporting workshop in June 2008, I found it exemplary organised for national building.
Today, literacy rate in Sri Lanka stands at 98 percent, the highest among South Asian countries and its major export is skilled human resource that earns a huge foreign exchange by rendering services in Middle East, Europe and even US.
Balochistan, which enjoyed an independent status until it voluntarily ascended to Pakistan in 1948, is the largest province of Pakistan in terms of land mass besides having a unique geography with over 720 kilometers long coast.
The insurgencies by the aggrieved Baloch were the result of resentment caused by utter negligence on the part of central government, which is amply evident from its backwardness in every field of life than the other three provinces.
The plight of social sectors, including health, education, agriculture, clean drinking water, etc, grew further following the insurgency that erupted in 2004. Of these, the education sector suffered the most due to deteriorating law and order, particularly in areas where ethnic Baloch community is dominant.
Target killings of teachers forced the community to stop performing duties at schools to save their lives. Principal Cadet College Mastung, Maqbool Hussain, Balochistan University Professor Nazma Talib of Mass Communication department, Vice Chancellor designate of the University of Balochistan Professor Safdar Kiani, Principal Tameer-e-Nau College Professor Fazal Bari, Principal Commerce College Quetta are few of the many renowned educationists who fell prey to targeted killing.
A majority of the workforce rendering services in various provincial government departments comes from cities close to the province’s border like Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Dera Ismail Khan, and others who settled in Balochistan in view of easy access to employment opportunities in public sector departments.
Same is the case with Balochistan’s education sector, which employees over 60, 000 teachers of various categories, i.e, primary, middle, secondary and higher secondary, lecturers and professors, a majority of whom belongs to Southern Punjab. Public sector educational institutions serve as the only educational outlets across the province, a majority of them are stated to be settlers, a term used for people who have settled in Balochistan from other provinces.
Balochistan consists of 31 administrative districts of which 21 are districts where different ethnic Baloch tribes form a majority, including Awaran, Barkhan, Chaghi, Dera Bugti, Gwadar, Jaffarabad, Jhal Magsi, Kachi, Kalat, Kech, Kharan, Khuzdar, Kohlu, Lasbella, Mastung, Naseerabad, Naushki, Panjgur, Sibi, Washuk and Dalbandin.
According to School Census 2009-10 by Balochistan Education Management Information System, some 632241 out of total 1029461 boys and girls students enrolled in Balochistan government primary, middle, and higher secondary schools belong to Baloch-dominated districts.
Another reason that serves as a major impediment for students to pursue their education is lack of educational institutions. For instance, in Awaran district there are primary schools with a capacity of 162 boys where some 6613 students are currently enrolled while there are only 13 middle schools for boys across the district.
The question arises how such a limited number of schools can enable a large number of students from primary schools to continue studies? As a result, very few numbers of students are able to complete their middle school education and fewer among them can complete their high school education for which they would have to travel for tens of kilometers daily.
For them, college and university level education is a dream. The same situation prevails in the rest of Balochistan districts, compelling parents to make their children apprentice rather than sending them to schools. A place like Balochistan, where boys’ education system is in a deplorable condition, girls’ education is in a very poor state.
Poor law and order situation in the wake of the military action in Balochistan in 2005 left a very bad impact on the overall education sector of the province.
According to a report, over six thousand teachers submitted applications for their transfer to other provinces while the number of teachers who demanded for their relocation to schools in Pashtoon-dominated districts of Balochistan is higher because law and order situation is comparatively better there.
If a comparison is made between the education sector of Balochistan with that of the other three provinces the disparity would be huge. Balochistan has only one medical education institution, Bolan Medical College, Quetta which has not yet been granted post-graduate status. There is only one University of Engineering and Technology Khuzdar for over 10 million population.
When the government’s attention is drawn towards backwardness of Balochistan it simply holds its vast area and scattered population responsible which is not fair. There is a long list of injustices done to the province. Quetta has very few numbers of private schools.
This is, indeed, a high time for mainstream political leadership to sit together and draw an effective strategy for amicable resolution of Balochistan issue in order to restore peace to the province.