I haven’t seen a single child go to this educational institution for the last four years, says a resident of the Ghari Mosam Khan pointing to the government girls primary school on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
According to Hameed Khan, who runs a shop near the school, he remembers well that a couple of years ago, girls used to go through the lush green fields every morning to reach the primary school.
However, the school located some three kilometres from Peshawar on the bank of the Bara River has been closed for four years. And the closure came after the lone teacher of the school was transferred.
Since there was no teacher, the students stopped coming to the school.
Some took admission in another primary school located at a distance of around one kilometre, while the rest abandoned education after their parents told them to stay home. The school wore a deserted look when a visit was paid to it. The doors of its two classrooms were taken away by the people, while electricity and other facilities, too, were missing.
While the international community has been pushing the Pakistani government for encouraging girls to get education since little female education activist Malala Yousafzai of Swat was shot by the Taliban, closure of schools due to unavailability of teachers and pathetic conditions at the functional ones point to another serious educational issue in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Ironically, the elementary and secondary education department has no data of schools closed due to unavailability of teachers and other reasons. It is enough to show the department’s indifference to the issue.
The number of closed schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as shown in the Education Management Information System report issued in the last four years are not more than 450 though E and SE Minister Sardar Hussain Babak has time and again claimed that more than 900 schools in the province have been reopened in two years.
In 2010, the education department introduced rationalisation policy for transferring teachers from schools in city areas to those closed due to unavailability of teachers.
According to officials, schools in city areas are overstaffed as teachers wants to stay there to get additional allowance not given to those appointed to rural area educational institutions.
They also said thousands of schools in the province, mostly primary ones, lacked basic facilities causing high dropout rate. According to officials, the overall dropout rate calculated for preparatory-5th class in government primary schools over six years is 45 percent (39 percent among boys and 53 percent among girls). Likewise, the dropout rate calculated for class six-10 over five years is 45 percent (46 percent among boys and 43 per cent among girls).
They said around 10,518 schools had been without electric supply, 5,482 without boundary walls, 7,432 without drinking water and 4,458 without toilets.
Officials said currently, 3.73 million children were out of schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to inaccessibility to schools, missing facilities inside schools and poverty. And of them, 1.809 million are aged between five and 10 years and 1.924 million between 11 and 15 years.
In this light, it is stated that the government could increase access of children, especially girls, to education in the province by setting up more schools, providing basic facilities to the existing ones and observe merit while transferring teachers.