Education sector starved of public funds for too long
May(Dawn): With the new federal budget around the corner, government- funded
universities in the twin cities, like other public sector departments, have been
busy in figuring out their financial requirements for the next year.
are hoping the government would honour its pledge, given at high levels,
including the president and the prime minister, that allocation for education
will be increased to four per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the
new budget from the present 2.7 per cent. The Senate Committee on Education,
Science and Technology "recommended" so as recently as May 24.
Alam Khan, chairperson of the Senate committee, said that the committee
members had forcefully asked the government to fulfil its commitment of 4 per
cent increase but emphasised that any increase would bring benefits only when
the federal and provincial governments saw to it that the funds were utilised
properly and fully.
Background interviews with the officials of the
ministry of education, however, revealed that the increase was not expected to
be more than 3 per cent.
They argued that making political statements was
different from taking practical steps. Decisions regarding the share of
competing sectors in the national cake involve many factors.
mentioning that successive Pakistani governments have always been criticised by
international agencies for not offering enough money to the education
Pakistan ranks second among the countries of the world with
highest number of out of school children. According to Unesco's 'Education For
All Global Monitoring Report 2007', issued last December, 6.5 million children
are out of schools in Pakistan.
Nigeria with some 8 million out-of-school
children stands first in the hall of shame, and India, with 4.5 million such
children, occupies third place after Pakistan.
committed themselves to increasing the budget for education sector to four per
cent of the GDP, but the present government is the first to take steps in that
The budget for the Higher Education Commission (HEC) witnessed
a phenomenal increase from few hundred millions in 2002 to Rs16 billion in 2006.
Under various schemes, salaries of university teachers were raised, some getting
up to Rs200,000 per month. Similarly, students were offered
But soon after the announcement of the budget, the finance
division cut down the allocation of the HEC, putting it in a difficult
In the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2006-07,
Rs16 billion was earmarked for the HEC. The finance ministry reduced it by Rs4.5
billion. Later, the government announced a 15 per cent increase in the salaries
of university teachers amounting to Rs1.2 billion, which put additional pressure
on the HEC's finances.
Meanwhile, the finance ministry asked HEC to
readjust its development projects to divert Rs2 billion to meet its current
According to HEC officials, they have achieved 100 per cent
utilisation of their budget for the year and set a target of getting around Rs20
billion in the forthcoming PSDP for the commission. They said the HEC needed
money for scores of new projects to take the country's higher education to a
level where students from Pakistan could compete
Paradoxically, school and college level education is yet
to be given adequate financial assistance. Primary school teachers in Punjab
have long been protesting against their dismally low salary structure and
increase in their allowances. They climaxed their protest last week by refusing
to supervise the annual primary and middle standard exams at the eleventh hour
which created law and order situation in many districts.
repeated announcements, the government is yet to revise service structure of
school level teachers to give them a sense of respectability. No wonder, over
the years, the teaching profession has become a choice only for the
There is no second opinion that for decades our rulers
criminally neglected mass education and did not accord education the importance
that it occupies in building a sound and progressive society.
By Khawar Ghumman
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