Balochistan home to lowest-literacy rate in Pakistan

QUETTA, June 12(Daily Times): Balochistan is home to the largest number of school buildings that are falling apart. It also has the least number of educational institutions, the lowest literacy rate among both males and females, the lowest ranking in the Gender Parity Index (GPI) and the smallest presence of private educational institutes in the country, according to the recently issued National Economic Survey (NES).

According to the survey, 8.6 percent out of the 10,381 educational institutions in the province are in a 'dangerous' condition. About 24.7 percent of these need major repairs while 36.6 percent require minor repairs. Only 30.2 percent are in satisfactory conditions.

"The total number of institutions in the country that have buildings is 216,490. Out of those, 51.6 percent are in satisfactory conditions, 26 percent need minor repairs, 17 percent need major repairs, and 'only' 5.7 percent are in dangerous conditions.

The highest percentage of school buildings that fall into this category are from Balochistan, said the survey.

About six percent of the schools in Balochistan do not have buildings, nine percent lack electricity, 12 percent are devoid of clean drinking water and 11 percent are without proper latrine.

The province also has the smallest number of educational institutions-10,381 against the national number of 216,490 out of which 106,435 are located in the Punjab, 46,862 in Sindh and 36,029 in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). This, according to the NES, means that "out of the total number of institutions, 48 percent are to be found in the Punjab, 22 percent in Sindh, 17 percent in the NWFP and 5 percent in Balochistan." With 43 percent of the total national territory and vast natural resources, Balochistan happens to be the largest province of Pakistan. But the province has the lowest literacy rate.

According to the latest NES, Balochistan's total literacy rate is 34 percent against the national literacy rate of 52 percent-57 percent of which is for the Punjab, 50 percent for Sindh and 49 percent for the NWFP. The literacy rate among males in Balochistan is 39 percent, the lowest in the country. The Punjab has 60 percent and Sindh and the NWFP both have 54. Similarly, the literacy rate among women in Balochistan is also the worst in the country. With only 27 percent literate women, Balochistan stands poorly against the national female literacy rate of 48 percent - 53 percent for the Punjab, 42 percent for Sindh and 27 percent for the NWFP.

Balochistan also lags behind all the three provinces in the Net Enrolment Rate (NER). "The NER for primary schools was 42 percent in 2001-02, which increased significantly to 52 percent in 2005-06. Overall, both the sexes have recorded a 10 percent increase in 2005-06 as compared to 2001-02. The Punjab (57 percent) has ranked first followed by Sindh, the NWFP, and then Balochistan," the survey stated.

Though the GPI has seen a considerable increase over time, "the smaller provinces of the NWFP and Balochistan, with a literacy GPI of 0.46 and 0.37 respectively, deserve special consideration by the decision makers and planners at both the federal and provincial levels."

According to the survey, the GPI for GER at the primary level increased from 0.37 in 2001-02 to 0.85 in 2005-06. The NER at the primary level increased from 0.82 to 0.85 during the same period.

The latest data marks the literacy GPI for Pakistan at 0.46 with a provincial break-up of 0.67 for the Punjab, 0.89 for Sindh, 0.46 for the NWFP and 0.37 for Balochistan. Balochistan's journey towards the attainment of a higher literacy rate from 2001-02 to 2005-06 has been embarrassingly slow as compared to the other three provinces. The Punjab has outdone all the other provinces improving its literacy rate from 47 to 57 percent. Similarly, Sindh has increased to 55 percent from 46 percent in 2001-02 and the NWFP from 38 to 46 percent.

Balochistan has proved to be the slowest with only a two percent increase in its literacy rate during the past seven years. The province, according to the NES, has only progressed from 36 to 38 percent.

Balochistan also has the lowest presence of private schools - 1,750, as compared to 48,541 in the Punjab, 12,574 in Sindh and 11,276 in the NWFP. The NES has noted that more than 76,000 private institutions in Pakistan attend to the educational needs of 12 million children. The trend in enrolment shows that the gender gap is closing down in the case of private schools as compared to public schools.

One strong reason could be the presence of almost twice the number of female teachers in the private sector as compared to the public sector. In private schools, the student to teacher ratio is 1:29. The male teacher to female teacher ratio is 1:2. In the case of the public sector, the ratio of male teachers to female teachers is 1:0.6.

"Private sector institutions are growing rapidly, i.e., from 36,096 in 1999-2000 to 81,103 institutions in 2005, showing an annual average increase of 25 percent," the report said. Despite Balochistan's abysmal state of education, the cash-starved province has been left in lurch by the federal government in its efforts to improve the state of education. The NES states that the provincial government will need to rationalize the suggested allocation increase by enhancing non-salary expenditures for primary and secondary schools. This includes the provision of missing facilities in existing infrastructure, the provision of quality services such as teacher training, the increase of resources for new infrastructure, a girls incentive programs, and the provision of on-the-side incentives such as free textbooks, uniforms, transport, and scholarships.



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