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KP education affairs

AROUND 39 per cent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa`s 11.7 million children in the age bracket of 5-16 years are out of school, including one million who live in the erstwhile Fata region, according to a survey conducted by the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) Department will need to establishover15,000 additional schools for the enrolment of the out-of-school children totalling 4.7 million in the province.

The education officials claim that there are about 35,000 government schools in the province where 5.5 million children are getting education. However, there appears to be no plan to build new schools for the large out-of-school population.

If the education officials are to be believed, the government every year approves 300 new schools in the annual budget.

However, at this rate, it would take 50 years to build enough schools to reach the millions of out-of-school children, and the increase in population would have far exceeded the current demand for schools by then.

Moreover, considering that a six-room building for a primary school costs Rs30 million on the land acquired free of cost, and it takes two to four years to be completed, the annual budget of Rs205 billion for the E&SE Department is extremely inadequate. From the total amount, Rs185bn are spent only on salaries of the teaching and non-teaching staff, while Rs20bn are kept aside for development.

Besides the need for constructing new schools, there is also a dire need to repair the existing ones as many buildings are in a real bad shape. According to the provincial data, 23pc schools do not have toilets, boundary walls, electricity and drinking water, etc. Meanwhile, 55pc schoolsin the tribaldistricts have no electricity, 51pc have no drinkingwater and 30pc have no toilets and boundary walls.

The situation calls for a review of the current education policies. Clearly, if 44pc children of a country remain out of school, there is a lot wrong with how schools are run. A number of issues pertaining to the efhcacy ofbuildinglarge structures, wastage of funds, not investing in the upkeep of the existing schools and developing teachers` professional capacity need the urgent attention of both provincial and federal authorities.

Muhammad Zafar Mehsud Peshawar