Economic Survey of Pakistan ranks Balochistan the most neglected province of Pakistan with lowest Gender Parity Index (GPI). Despite being the largest and a resource-rich province, it is the most deprived and underdeveloped region. The grievances of people resulted in anti-state feelings and created problems for national security. The local population demands greater control over its own resources, more provincial autonomy, role in mega projects including the solution for outside settlers, missing persons and extremism in province.
Balochistan is going through a number of issues including terrorism and insurgency, poverty, inflation, unemployment, corruption and illiteracy. Illiteracy is one of those major issues which plays an important role in both the social and economic spheres of a country. Therefore, it is essential to discuss the pros and cons of education, the prevalence and adverse impact of illiteracy, and how it can be addressed in the most efficient manner possible.
Over the last few decades, knowledge has become a pre-requisite of the new production paradigm, and education has become an essential factor in the modernization of production systems and the economic behavior of individuals. Human capital theory is based on the notion that education is an investment for the bright future of society. Demand for education is a function of rational human behavior. This, in turn, contributes to a better and easier lifestyle. Whereas illiteracy negatively affects the society as a whole, decreasing employment, economic growth and social equity.
High rate of illiteracy is always the core cause of many problems in underdeveloped societies. Literacy rate in Balochistan is the lowest in the country throughout history. It currently stands at 41% whereas the literacy rate in Punjab, Sindh and KP are 62%, 55% and 53% respectively. The situation in rural areas and female education is worse. One of the reasons of poor education in the province is the absence of teachers, who are unwilling to stay and teach in Balochistan because of its deteriorating conditions. Secondly there are more than 5000 ghost teachers who are getting their wages without performing their duties. Corruption at this stage, in this field, is disheartening. There are more than 12,500 primary schools in Balochistan, but sadly about 7000 schools are without classrooms, teachers and infrastructure. It’s estimated that at least 2.3 million boys and girls are out of school, 1.1 million children can receive primary education and only half of them continue their education after matriculation because of poverty. At least 52% people are living below the poverty line who cannot afford to send their children in private schools in absence of teachers and other basic facilities in government schools.
We live in a country, where women make about 49% of the entire population. To raise a literate generation, one needs a literate woman cum better mother. Women empowerment and gender equality is another apparent issue in Balochistan, which averts women from getting education. It is also observed that people of Balochistan are much possessive about their identity. Deprivation of the weakest segments in society from their basic rights is a common phenomenon.
In an interview with Shumaila Umer, a tribal leader explained, “Our tribal system is based on our cultural norms, which are made by our forefathers. In our tribe our lives and status is dependent on our prestige, which is directly linked with our women. That is why we cannot allow our girls to go to cities to get an education or do any job, in the case of any mishap the whole tribe cannot face the rest of the society. As people will laugh at them and would not want to make relation with our tribe. The culturally accepted principle is that women must first fulfill their responsibility at home. Women have a primary responsibility given by our culture as wives and mothers”.
Due to social and economic factors, the female literacy is much lower than males in Balochistan. Currently the female literacy rate in the province stands at 27% which is comparatively lower than the female literacy rate at national level (48%), Punjab (53%), Sindh (42%) and KP (27%). Furthermore, currently the number of schools and colleges for girls in Balochistan is 3408 and 35 colleges with enrollment of 429784 students and employment of 16693 female teachers.
To improve the situation the intervention of the federal government has now become mandatory. Immediate steps should be taken to restructure the province’s worsening education system. It is the right time for the citizens of Balochistan to raise their voice against this burning issue and to take steps to eradicate this gross problem. In accordance with the budget analysis, there is a major decline in Balochistan’s education budget. The total development budget for 2016-2017 is Rs. 71 billion out of which the education sector will receive only 9 % i.e. Rs. 6.4 billion. This year’s development budget is 36 % lower than the allocated budget of Rs.10 billion in 2015-2016. In 2016-2017, the development budget has been slashed by 42 % to Rs.4.4 billion. Out of the total budget for education, 88% goes into payments for salaries and other expenditures and only 12% is spend on providing facilities to students.
Table 1. (Balochistan’s literacy rate comparison)
Pakistan is facing various economic and social problems including the continuous increase in population which is directly proportional to the poverty rate in the country. To elevate the economy of the country, the available resources need to be utilized properly. In this regard, the resources rich province and strategically important Balochistan can be of more use to elevate the national economy than other provinces. The education sector of Pakistan in general, and Balochistan in particular, should be treated as a special sector by protecting it from political and economic instabilities and increasing the education budget each year. Allocations for education should not be affected by squeezed fiscal space or surges in military expenditure or debts.