Events

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Education in Balochistan

by Dr Shahid Siddiqui
7 June, 2010
IN the last couple of months a number of teachers have been targeted and killed in Balochistan. Some of them had been living there for more than four decades and were immersed in the local culture.

They included teachers, principals of colleges, a university dean, an acting vice-chancellor and the education minister. A factor common to all these people was that they were non-locals and came from other provinces. The repercussions of these targeted killings are multi-dimensional but the main victim appears to be education.

Balochistan is the largest province in the country with an area of 347,190sq km, or 43 per cent of the total area of Pakistan. The population constitutes only five per cent of the country’s total population. It is this vast difference between area and population that attracted people from other provinces to come and settle here. Among them were a number of educationists who made important contributions in their field.

It is important to note that it’s not essentially a population-related issue and in the case of Balochistan the population is projected as decreasing by 1.3 per cent by 2025. The apparent cause of the problems is of a political nature and has led to a sense of deprivation and socio-political exclusion.

Balochistan has a history of army operations that goes back to the initial years of Pakistan. The last one was during the Musharraf era when Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed in an operation ordered by Pervez Musharraf and widely condemned. The backlash of this murder was swift and severe.

The anger was demonstrated in many ways, as has also been the case in the past when armed resistance occurred. Yet on all those occasions, violent reaction was confined to the rural areas and the targets were not civilians, especially not teachers. The teaching profession has enjoyed much respect by the masses in traditional Baloch society. It is a recent and surprising phenomenon that political revenge has picked on teachers as targets. This has had a direct impact on education.

The role of education in the process of development is considered crucial. We live in an age of knowledge economy where the literate citizens of a country constitute its human capital, which plays a significant role in national development. A more comprehensive definition of development includes education, in addition to income and health.

According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan (2009-10) Balochistan lags behind in terms of the literacy rate, which is 46 per cent as compared to 59 per cent in Punjab, 56 per cent Sindh and 49 per cent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Gender Parity Index (GPI), as defined in the Economic Survey of Pakistan, is the ratio of females’ enrolment to the males’ enrolment. A GPI of more than one indicates that in proportion to every male in the school, there is more than one female”. The GPI index score for Balochistan is 0.35 which is lower than Punjab (0.69), Sindh (0.61) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (0.49).

As part of the gender divide in education, there is a vast difference in the literacy rate between the urban and rural areas of Balochistan. These unequal divides on the basis of gender and area suggest that a sizable portion of the population has not been given the opportunity of obtaining education and is thus not fully active in the process of development.

The recent phase of unrest that started with the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006 took an ugly turn when the teachers came under attack and many were killed. These killings had associated chain reactions. Teachers who came from other provinces suddenly found they were unsafe and started applying for transfers. According to one estimate more than 70 faculty members of the University of Balochistan have submitted transfer applications. This is a huge number given that there are only 200 faculty members in all. A sudden and en masse departure of qualified faculty will have a serious effect on the quality of education.

Besides the university, a number of colleges are now also closed. The school system has stopped working, for even those that remain open are practically dysfunctional because of the absence of faculty members and very low student attendance.

This is a disturbing situation that has a direct impact on Balochistan’s younger generation. Long closures of educational institutions, the sudden departure of qualified faculty, the very intolerant attitude towards other ethnic groups and a threatening environment on campus will have a negative impact on the academic scene.

Balochistan, which is already lagging behind in terms of development, needs innovative initiatives to cope with the educational challenges of quantity, quality and fair distribution on the basis of gender and the rural-urban divide. Such initiatives were launched a couple of decades ago with the help of foreign funding agencies and had some positive outcomes for students and teachers. All of them have now, unfortunately, come to a halt.

The local teachers and students have tremendous potential. What they need is exposure to quality education and professional experience. It is through education that Balochistan can realise the dream of sustainable socio-economic development that promises enhanced political awareness and a creative means for exploring the freedom of expression and ideas. But education that ensures such dreams can take place only on campuses with peaceful classroom interactions, where disagreement can be shown in an agreeable manner and where teachers are respected and considered important.

The writer is the director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan.
My blog: http://shahidksiddiqui.blogspot.com
E-mail: shahidksiddiqui@yahoo.com

14 comments:

Reshma said...

A well analysed situation of education in Balochistan sir, but the dillema of accepting and respecting other cultures is a weakness of our whole educational system. we as teachers cannot inculcate the skill and attitude to respect others with their own identity. We want everyone to be like us...i dont know why?

The hidden curriculum has a great impact in imparting values to the students and this curriculum is totally ignored as most of the time teachers are ignorant about it.

I wanted to write on hidden curriculum and its impacts on students' attitude development. If you have any material please share...

Shahid Siddiqui said...

Reshma, You are right. Teachers can play an important part in inculcating the value of tolerance (about other cultures, religions, elasticities etc) among students. Unfortunately there is not much attention given to develop the students to enable them to live or work with others. Hidden curriculum is always more effective than the expository curriculum. Yea, its a good topic to write about.

Dhani Bux Jillani said...

Dear Sir, I found your article engaging,having an influence of showing a right picture of Education in Balochistan. I consider it a great contribution aiming to make people feel on the other side to give a very careful eye and ear to Balochistan. Due to the killings in the name of "target" and in the field of 'education' is really a surprising mystery. Question which arises here is, "what moves the killers to kill teachers". Let us see the situation with the eyes of "killers". It is their very common point of view that Balochistan and the pepole of Balochistan are lagging behind inspite of rich resources. As per them it is a conspiracy and open enemity to their present and future generations. Consequently, they will fight as people in the power are not giving any serious ear to their demands. Convincingly looking at the history of Balochistan one can understand that if today Balochistan is behind that is because it was not seriously looked after by the different governments. But, how one can believe that by killing people and specially teachers any nation can be moved ahead towards development and prosperity. Who can ask from these killers that whom they are killing they have sacrificed their own cultures and contexts to make the people of Balochistan educated and prosperous (personally, I am not a believer of seeing people from the lense of culture, context, language, nationality and religion, however I am referring here to differenct culture and context as per common point of view which prevails in our society on a large scale and one screams when he or she finds even the literates {I am not writing educated knowingly}of our society trapped in these borders. Due to these killings in education sector not only the educated people of Balochistan having a differnent identity are leaving it, but even the other educational institutes are hesitating in sending their faculty to Balochistan for any educational improvement programme. Consequently, the situation of education is getting worse in Balochistan. Right now I am in Quetta with a university assignment and I can see and feel the fear which is in the result of killings teachers.

Shahid Siddiqui said...

Dhani, thanks for your feedback. Take care of yourself. Have a safe stay there.

HUMAIRA said...

Thanks Sir for breathtaking description of deplorable educational scenario in Balochistan. It is indeed a ghastly reality that teachers had been ruthlessly assassinated just because they were non-locals. Keeping in view this alarming situation, it is certainly very difficult for qualified teachers to work in Balochistan as they might also become target of ‘revenge’ perpetrated against other ethnic groups. I agree with you that need is to raise awareness about the importance of education and to broaden people’s horizons through 'freedom of expression and ideas' that might refine intellect and develop creativity and tolerance among people in Balochistan.

HUMAIRA said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shahid Siddiqui said...

Humairs, Thanks for your feedback.

Sufia said...

Sir thank you for bringing such a grave and critical issue to discussion. Discrimination and disparity are prevailing, whereas, tolerance and patience are considered as the ideas of by-gone days. The development of educational sector in the true sense can only ensure the progress of any nation.
In our country, unfortunately, education is the most neglected and deprived institution. We seriously need to think about it and work for its betterment.
Being the teachers, we have to take initiative, particularly, as Reshma said, work on changing mindset for accepting difference of opinion, ideology, race, culture, and language etc.

I think if the educational institutions, take step to organize intercollegiate and inter-university level events, tours and competitions on national level instead city or province; this would provide chances to students and teachers to get them closer, know about others. Because knowing leads to set right believes and tolerance as well.

Shahid Siddiqui said...

Sufia, Thanks for your comments. Yes it ia serious issue which needs to be addressed on urgent basis.

Dhani Bux Jillani said...

Dear Sir, during my sessions at Quetta, I have shared your article Education in Balochistan to the Head teachers who are the participants in "leadership development program" and their response is very appreciative and encouraging. As all the participants are from very far flung rural areas of Baochistan, with a very limited access on Internet and newspapers. So, as per them this sharing of the article has actually enlighted them about the real picture of the status of education in Balochistan.

Shahid Siddiqui said...

Thanks Dhani, for your concern and for exposing the participants to some contemporary stuff.

Gohar Shah Ravian said...

Just Love to read your Article Sir. As a student I must say, We have to do many more in term of education in Pakistan. Education is the key to convert a person in a well mannered citizen.

Zahoor said...

salaams sir shahid sb!
i love people who spread education.so first of all i love u.
sir i ve done MBA wid HR specialization n also a masters in IR.
i ve estabilished a change schooling system wid the name LORDS SYSTEM OF SCHOOLS & COLLEGES.
the first baranch i estabilished in 2008 and working on.
sir i belong to a very poor family but my this aim in my heart is stronger than every thing. i ve reject all the priorities of famaily n life only i ve focused on this Aim.
sir i would like to meet u to gain knowledge abt education.
Zahoor Tareen
xahoortareen@gmail.com
03063444555/03333732242/0812441188/0812001411

Zahoor said...

sir how can we contact u