No head teacher for most part of the year, only one science teacher for the secondary section, no clerical staff at all, no science laboratory and no clean drinking water: this is Government Girls High School, Chak No 330/HR, tehsil Fort Abbas in Punjab.
The teacher in-charge has a long list of complaints to relate if you ask her about the on-ground situation. The school caters for girl students coming from at least seven nearby villages, situated on the brink of the Cholistan desert. But the educational facility has been facing so many problems for long that it has almost failed to retain its students, she says.
She says that during the last year, the school invited community leaders, made an all-out effort and admitted almost 20 students to ninth class, but almost half of them left the school due to various reasons including the unavailability of science teachers and laboratory. Only six teachers are serving at the high school currently and there is no math teacher at all for the secondary section.
The teacher complains that in the absence of a head teacher, she had to manage school affairs. “There is not a single clerk in the school, I have to dispose of all clerical tasks after the school time, though I feel really exhausted after taking eight periods daily,” she adds.
She believes that the school must have many more students compared with its current strength of about 300. But sometimes parents and mostly students themselves prefer going to the Girls High School Marot – the biggest town in the area, situated about 13 kilometres away, due to the unavailability of science teachers in the Chak No 330/HR high school.
Bilquis Iqbal, a dropout, seconds the head teacher’s assertions. She had to leave her education after she failed her eighth class examination. “I never liked mathematics as a subject,” says Bilquis. “I always found it difficult to grasp this subject fully even when a teacher was available in lower classes,” she adds. “And in 8th class, unluckily we did not have teachers to teach us mathematics and English subjects, so I failed my exam,” she explains sadly. “My father had already told me that whenever I fail my exam, he will withdraw me from school and marry me off. Now, I don’t go to school though I want to, and get education at least to college level.” And thus Bilquis met the fate of hundreds of thousands of girls of her kind.
Chaudhry Irshad Ali of Chak No 338/HR, former naib nazim, says that parents of his area villages are in a fix as sending their daughters to a high school about 15 kilometres away is not possible for them, especially while no proper transport means are available in the area. There is no public or private transport system in the area. Whosoever wants his daughter to get a proper education in a high school, has to give her the pick up and drop off facility on his own, explains Irshad. And it is a pity that over 90% of parents are too poor to afford the facility, financially and practically, adds the ex-naib nazim.
However, a research report, conducted under a World Bank initiative, shows that there is nothing new in the situation as far as the conditions of schools in Pakistan are concerned. According to the report, the national literacy rate is 46%, and the literacy rate is 26% for girls and 12% for women, though the figure includes people also who can write their own names only.
According to the statistics given in the report, Pakistan enrolled 83 girls for every 103 boys in primary schools. The primary completion rate for girls was only 58% as opposed to 70% for boys. Of the 6.8 million currently estimated to be out of school in Pakistan, at least 4.2 million are girls. Only 35% of rural women above the age of 10 had completed primary education.
Prof Ghulam Shabir, a senior teacher at the Mass Communication Department, Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan, wonders how come an educated and developed society can be established if we keep depriving half of our population of its right to education? Every year, a number of educational schemes and projects are announced in the annual budget, but they fail to bring about any visible change, he regrets. It seems most of these schemes and projects fail to see the light of the day, otherwise all Bilquises of the country should have availed an opportunity until now to get an education in their own locality schools, equipped with all facilities and trained teachers of all subjects, of course.