EducationVolume 12 Issue # 24

More allocations, less spending on education: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

According to the provincial finance bill 2017-18, passed by the KhyberPakhtunkhwa Assembly last month, the government, in its fifth annual budget, allocated Rs. 127.91 billion for the education sector. Out of which, Rs. 115.92 billion was allocated for primary and secondary schools, and Rs. 6.32 billion for higher education, making a total increase of 18% in the education budget compared with the last year. The higher education budget was increased by 31% and elementary and secondary education by 17%.

The proposed plans show that the higher education budget would be spent on a total of 65 projects. Out of them, 38 are ongoing with an allocation of Rs. 3.99bn, and the rest are new ones, with an allocation of Rs. 2.32bn. Salient features of the budgetary allocations for the sector include upgradation of existing university campuses to full-fledged universities and performance-based grants to the public-sector universities.

Other budget targets include categorisation of seminar halls in the directorate of archives, repairing of existing public libraries, initiating BS 4year programmes in 62 colleges and capacity enhancement of 4-year teacher engagement programmes.

On the other hand, the KP provincial government, despite tall claims, missed major targets during the previous financial year in the field of education. The literacy rate declined from 60% to 58% and overall Net Enrolment Rate (NER) at the primary level declined from 54% to 53%.

It also includes M.Phil and Ph.D programmes for college lecturers through faculty development support programmes, besides training sessions for lecturers of various colleges, and establishment of new public sector colleges on requirement basis, besides establishment of a science and technology department with support of Austria at a cost of Rs8.2 billion, the budget document stated.On the school side, an allocation of Rs. 14bn has been made for a total of 77 projects; out of which, 60 are ongoing with an allocation of Rs. 12.6bn, while 17 projects are new ones with an allocation of Rs. 1.35bn. As many as 100 Masjid-Maktab schools will be converted to primary schools, and 410 new primary schools will be built for girls and boys on requirement basis, across the province.

Funds for establishment of model schools in district Karak, Haripur, Charsadda, Hangu and Batgram were also allocated, with a plan of upgrading 100 primary schools for boys and girls to middle; 100 middle schools to high and 100 high schools to higher secondary school levels across the province.

The education development projects include standardising primary education across the province, ensuring completion of primary schooling by all children, and addressing gender disparity by promoting gender equality, affirmative action and empowerment of women.

KP Elementary and Secondary Education Minister Muhammad Atif Khan says that the focus of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had been upgradation of the education system in the province. That’s why, he adds, it has almost doubled the education budget proposal from what the Awami National Party (ANP) had allocated in the final year of its tenure in 2013.

The ANP government had allocated Rs. 61 billion for the education sector, he says, adding that the PTI government gradually but steadily increased the said budget over the years to Rs. 138 billion, reflecting a whopping surge of 126%.

The minister recalls that the PTI government had allocated Rs. 118 billion for the education sector in the budget 2016-17. There was a dire need of teachers in the educational institutions in the province and the Provincial Services Commission’s process for hiring teachers was very slow so the government had to introduce the National Teaching System (NTS).

Around 40,000 teachers, both for boys’ and girls’ schools, were hired through the NTS, he adds. This year (2017-18), the government will recruit 15,000 more teachers. So far, the government has spent Rs. 800 million on training teachers, which is a record amount, the minister claims.

The incumbent government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the British Council for imparting training to 83,000 teachers. The minister claims spending Rs. 121 billion on provision of missing facilities in schools and around 400,000 chairs worth Rs. 7 billion have been provided in government schools.

]The previous government had established 169 information technology (IT) labs in government schools, while the incumbent government has so far set up 1,369 IT labs in both boys’ and girls’ schools in the province.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is governed by the federal government, and its budgetary allocations are also made by the Centre. However, due to proximity of these areas to KP, the budgetary allocation for FATA education sector could be presented here. The allocations for education in 2017-18 financial year stand at Rs. 12.8 billion, showing an increase of 9.4% over the previous budget. The revised estimate was the same as the budget estimate, i.e., Rs. 11.7 billion, suggesting that no information was available at the time of the budget preparation.

These numbers do indicate that more than 50% of the total current budget is spent on education, most of it on elementary education. How much of it is feeding ghost teachers and schools is anybody’s guess.

On the development side, the allocation of Rs. 26.9 billion is 20.6% higher than the previous budget, but 26.6% less than the revised estimate. It includes foreign assistance of Rs. 490 million. A few projects mentioned in the federal budget documents relate largely to infrastructure. Strangely, the entire amount is shown against the functional classification of “general public services not elsewhere defined.”

In the development budget of the Higher Education Commission, one notices a project called FATA University, ongoing since 2015. Against the total cost of Rs. 1.6 billion, half-a-billion has been spent and another Rs. 250 million are allocated for 2017-18.

Another project, Provision of Higher Education Opportunities for Students of Balochistan and FATA (Phase-II), has been allocated Rs. 300 million. The share of FATA is not known. There is no new project on higher education in FATA. Little wonder, a literacy rate of 24%, over a million children out of school and a large number of non-functional facilities sum up the educational scene in FATA. Former president of the FATA Political Alliance and president of ANP, Mohmand Agency chapter, Nisar Mohmand are totally unsatisfied with the allocations for FATA. In a telephonic talk with Cutting Edge, they termed it extremely insufficient keeping in view the vast population and the level of backwardness in the region. They pointed out that schools, hospitals, roads and other basic infrastructure were battered during the militancy, but no special funds were approved in the budget for their rehabilitation.They demanded 100% increase in allocations for the education sector in the tribal areas.

On the other hand, the KP provincial government, despite tall claims, missed major targets during the previous financial year in the field of education. The literacy rate declined from 60% to 58% and overall Net Enrolment Rate (NER) at the primary level declined from 54% to 53%.

Educationists believe that only allocating funds for a sector is not enough, but swift, efficient and transparent utilisation of the allocated funds was equally important. However, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government remained most inactive among all four provinces as far as utilisation of funds was concerned. The province could utilise only 47% of the education budget for development during 2016-17.

The PTI-led provincial government had allocated Rs. 28.55 billion development budget for education last year, but it could spend only Rs. 15.17 billion (53% of total budget) showing a lapse of Rs. 13.40 billion.

The crucial issue was discussed extensively at the National Policy Dialogue on Public Financing of Education in Pakistan 2010-11 to 2015-16 and Education Budget Proposal 2016-17, organised by the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAP) in the last week of June 2017.