Amna Khatoon and Zeenat Khatoon had to stop their education three and two years back, respectively, after passing their fifth grade examination. They live in Chapal Abad, a small village situated at the northwest end of tehsil Katlang of district Mardan. They attended Government Girls Primary School in their village up to fifth grade, but could not get admission to the sixth grade as there is no high school for girls in thies village of a small population. Their father, Muhammad Usman Khan, a labour, cannot afford sending them to a high school, situated in another village, which discontinued of their education.
The story of Amna and Zeenat is a common story in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but sadly in runs, in contrary to big claims of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
The Prime Minister Imran Khan-led PTI has been in power in KP since 2013. The party has always made tall claims about placing education on top of its priority list. In August 2018, Arshad Khan, special Secretary Education Department, had told Cutting Edge by telephone that hundreds of new schools were being opened in the province and education standard at public sector schools had been raised to the level that nearly 150,000 students left private schools and returned to government schools during the past five years.
The secretary claimed that 55,000 new teachers were hired on merit and a hefty amount of Rs30 billion was spent on the provision of missing facilities in government schools. The KP education budget, which stood at Rs. 63 billion in 2013, was increased to a record Rs138 billion in 2017, showing a massive increase of 114%, he added. He also claimed credit for the PTI reconstructing 760 schools, ignored in Abbottabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Batagram and Torghar after the devastating 2015 earthquake.
However, in the first week of March 2019, a big scandal about huge corruption in the education sector of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa hit headlines in the national press. The provincial chief minister was informed by its own agency – Elementary & Secondary Education Foundation (ESEF) – that amongst 41,000 out-of-school children, enrolled in the targeted six districts of the province till 2017, nearly 21,000 were fake. Also, out of total 90 schools, established in just one district for the same purpose, 70 were found ghost.
In yet another educational initiative, Iqra Farogh-e-Taleem Voucher Scheme (IFTVS), the provincial government had been doling out millions of rupees to “fake” students as well as “ghost” schools without conducting any audit. According to a report, published in an English-language daily, the enrolment of a large number of fake out-of-school children (OOSC) in ghost schools during the past PTI government had turned out to be a big scandal. The official report for the year 2018-19 showed that corruption in the name of education has spread to 19 of total 25 provincial districts, where the scheme was launched.
The report claimed that in addition to officials of Elementary and Secondary Education Foundation (ESEF), the provincial Bureau of Statistics was also found involved in registering ghost students and schools. It revealed that the 2018-19 physical verification of total out-of-school children of 25 different districts, where the programme was launched, out of total 93,300 enrolled students, only 51,798 were physically verified. It means that almost 43,000 were found ghost.
Documents show that the Bureau of Statistics, in July 2018, provided data to the Education Foundation, according to which, 93,300 out-of-school children were successfully enrolled in 1,500 low-cost private schools across the province.
The Education Foundation carried out 10% validation/ verification against the data of the Bureau of Statistics. However, while physical verification of the schools and OOSC in district Mansehra was undertaken by the Education Foundation MD, it was found that the staff concerned of the Foundation and BoS had colluded and in active connivance with one each other, registered thousands of ghost out-of-school children.
Later the district programme officers were instructed to carry out 100% verification of the 93,300 out-of-school children in the private schools. The process showed that out of 93,300 children, only 51,708 were found genuine in 25 districts of the province. In only five, out of total 25 districts, no ghost students was found. In one district, at the time of 100% verification, the students’ number was found more than those registered.
On the other hand, according to an annual report of the Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU), there are total 21,179 primary schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where 12,593 boys and 8,589 girl students study. But, surprisingly, there are only 2,242 high schools in the province and out of it, 812 are for girls, while 1,430 are for boy students, while the number of higher secondary schools is just 643 in the province. The data clearly shows why Amnas and Zeenats are forced to quite education half way, though under the Article 25 of the Constitution, it is the responsibility of the state to provide compulsory education to 5 to 16 years old children. But, sadly, all governments of the past including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have failed to check dropout of children.
An official of the IMU told Cutting Edge that from 73 to 77% children are forced to leave their government schools after completing primary education due to shortage of high schools, low standard education and poor results in the province, while only 23 to 27% children get their education till matriculation in government schools.
The official told Cutting Edge that a majority of middle class girl and boy students take admission to private schools, while children of poor parents confine themselves to child labour or homes, leaving their education incomplete. The enrolment of children remains 63% at primary level, while it reduces to 35% in high schools. On the other hand, the same enrolment remains 33% and it increases to 65% in high schools. At least 180,0560 children are still out of school in KP.
According to official documents, 705,542 children took admission to KG in 2006-7, while in 2011-12, only 381,281 children could reach 9th class and so only 223,529 girl and boy students complete their education till 8th class. The documents say that in 2016-17, 174,334 children reached matriculation class and thus total 23% children received education till Matric in government schools, while 544,024 children left public sector educational institutions.
According to the Elementary and Secondary Education, 668,335 children took admission to prep class in 2007-8 and the number reduced to 370,619 in 5th class, while the number of the students further reduced to 25% in Matric in 2017-18. According to the official figures of KP, 64.59% boy students and 46% girl students get primary education, while only 24.33% boy students and 19% girl students complete primary education in the merged Tribal Areas and the number further reduces in high schools. According to the documents, 370,619 enrolment of children was recorded in 5th class in 2012-13, which further reduced in the next years.
The documents showed that 297,646 children took admission to 6th class during 2013-14, while next year 260,968 children were admitted to 7th class and in the same way, 238,597 children reached 8th class in 2015-16, while the strength further reduced in 9th class while 196,029 children could reach 9th class in 2016-17. The documents showed that 169,782 students could reach 10th class in 2017-18 and this showed that 200,837 children dropped out of government schools during class 5th to class 10th.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai admits that the majority of children leave their education incomplete after primary education due to social or financial compulsions or other reasons and the government was working seriously to check thies trend. Talking to Cutting Edge by telephone, he claimed that parents were not interested in sending their children to school. They themselves push their children to child labour; however, the government was providing free-of-cost education in the province. He claimed that schools were being arranged in buildings in areas where no middle and high schools are available, so that the children could complete their education near their homes.
However, he termed the reports of fake enrolments and ghost schools “more propaganda and less reality”. He said the provincial government was seriously looking into the issue and stern action would be taken against all those found responsible for the mismanagement and corruption. He said that a new system of monitoring was being evolved to check dropouts.