KARACHI: Despite consecutive raises in annual education budget, all provinces outshone Sindh in literacy rate as its school girls’ enrolment has declined while dropout ratio has risen. The enrolment ratio of school girls in Sindh has declined to 39% as compared to 61% of boys. On average, the overall dropout rate in primary classes in Sindh is 23%, according to an investigation report.
The investigative report based on research, interviews of stakeholders and filed observations says in rural areas, the main reason of low enrolment and high dropout is location of schools 5 to 10 kilometers away from villages and other settlements. Other reasons are corruption from top to taluka level in school funds, non-availability of transport, poverty, age above 13 (parent disallow girls), harassment of girls along schools routes by disobedient people, price hike, and non-availability of female teachers in almost 99% schools. However, these factors apply about 50% low in urban areas and that is why literacy rate of cities and towns is high as compared to villages.
According to a report of Alif Ailan, an organization which records enrolment and dropouts, the major reasons for girls’ dropout are parents needing help with work (29%) and parents not allowing them to continue (27%). For girls, access is also an issue: among boys, only 5% dropout because their school is too far, compared to 13% of girls.
A latest Economic Survey of Pakistan 2019 report says that literacy rate of females and males in Sindh has decreased from 63.0% to 62.2%, triggering a new challenge for the Sindh’s education department. However, the literacy rate has increased in three other provinces of the country. This rate has increased in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 54.1% to 55.3%, in Punjab from 61.9% to 64.7% and in Balochistan from 54.3% to 55.5%.
In an interview, Agha Fakhr Hussain Durrani, Additional Secretary (Secondary), Schools Education and Literacy Department, said: “Before 2008, literacy data was fake due to negligence of the responsible officials of that era. However, after 2008, such data is being maintained properly.”
He said that in order to raise the literacy rate in Sindh, particularly of girls, there was need to provide pick and drop service to girls, ensure washrooms in every school, construct boundary walls of those schools which lack such facilities besides providing drinking water facility to the students. He observed: “The girl students feel insecure while passing through routes between their schools and houses due to roaming of unruly males, most of whom gaze at the girls, and it is also one of the causes behind dropout ratio of school girls as a result, parents stop girls education.
Agha said School Management Committees (SMCs) needed to be activated immediately, as they could drastically help in the provision of facilities to the students. The SMC funds should also be released timely and the SMC members must be empowered fully to make decisions for resolving school problems. Furthermore, powers in education department should be decentralized from top to district level to run affairs in good manner. Agha said that the Sindh education department had formed Reforms Support Unit to enhance the literacy ratio of girls and boys.
The government documents available with this journalists state that in this fiscal year 2019-20, Rs 241 billion have been allocated to the education sector against Rs 190 in 2018-19, a growth of a whopping 27%. The Sindh government increased the non-development budget of education from Rs178.7 billion to Rs 211 billion in 2018-19, whereas on the development side, Rs24.4 billion have been allocated in ADP 2018-19 as compared to Rs17.1 billion in FY 2017-18. The provincial regime also raised its expenditure from Rs 146.7 billion in 2016-17 to Rs 166 billion in 2017-18, showing an increase of 13.16 percent. Rs 166.003 billion were spent in 2017-18, Rs146.732 billion in 2016-17, Rs 135.008 billion in 2015-16, Rs117.122 billion in 2014-15 and Rs106.093 billion in 2013-14.
In an interview during the field visit, Ali Gul Khuhro, the Head Master of Government Primary School, village Dilawar Khuhro, district Khairpur Mirs, informed that 16 girls out of 24 enrolled in the school in class one in year 2014 remained dropout in fifth class by 2019. Comparatively, the dropout of boys remained 22 out of 36 in this batch. In the previous batch of 2013-2018, the number of dropout girls from class one to five was 17 out of 23 as compared to boys ratio of 27 to 43.
Similarly, in batch 2012-2017, the number of dropout girls from class one to five was 10 out of 20 as compared to boys ratio of 15 to 40, Khuhro said. In batch 2011-16, the number of dropout girls from class one to five was 10 out of 15 as compared to boys ratio of 8 to 21, Khuhro further revealed. Khuhro said the majority of girls passing fifth class could not join middle or high schools as they have no source of transport to reach there. Only one per cent girls, after passing fifth class, can afford transportation charges for joining middle or high schools, he informed. Khuhro informed that there are only 115 female teachers in the primary schools of taluka Gambat as compared to 385 male teachers. He asked the government to appoint more female teachers in the schools, particularly in rural areas.