Education: Engine of development

Shaukat M Zafar

As narrated by Hazrat Abu Huraira (RA), The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said “The Hour (The Day of Judgment) will not be established until knowledge will be taken away, earthquakes will be very frequent, time will pass quickly, afflictions will appear, murders will increase and money will overflow against you”. (Hadith No.1 Vol.I) Education has always been the engine of human progress and development. A well known philosopher Aristotle some more than 2000 years ago had said “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet” which still ring true today. In other words it may cost the nation some money and time of individuals to keep on learning, but the results always worth it. Economic and social development is inconceivable in a country that neglects the education of its people.
Pakistan is absolutely uncertain where our country is heading. Its destination is still unknown. Pakistan is the country which has no minister for education. In Pakistan, no educational qualification is required to be part of the Parliament. So called Public Representatives therefore do not know the importance of education at local level. They send their own children abroad to get education so they need not to worry about the education within the country. Ruling elite do not want common people to get educated and promoting illiteracy. They need the status quo to prolong their retention in the power but if the poor people are get educated, they cannot be befooled anymore then who will serve and vote for this extremely corrupt elite.
Unfortunately, PPP and PML-N so called ‘democratic’ governments at the federal and provincial levels have been guilty of dereliction of their basic duty of educating the children and the youth on whom the future of the country depends. Despite the devolution of power to provincial governments, the woes of public sector educational institutions have not improved at all rather it has worsened. Both the governments bear the entire responsibility for this shameful neglect of education
The simple criteria to determine the real priority of the government attached to any sector is to look at the resources allocated in the budget for that sector. Just take an example of the situation of education in Islamabad run under the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CAD). Last year the federal government irrelevantly allocated Rs one billion to the Education Ministry, having nothing to do with the education of Islamabad, to introduce reforms in the Capital territory. The whole is now going to be lapsed but no reform has taken place in Islamabad, perhaps those reforms have been carried out in papers. The federal government also did not feel any need to enhance the development budgets of the Education Ministry and the HEC last year. Inadequate spending on education during so called ‘democratic’ regimes has left Pakistan lagging far behind even the African countries.
Allocating spending even less than 2 percent of GDP on education is shameful, no doubt which remained far above during military regimes. Lowest spending on education has caused huge disparities in the country where public sector educational institutions, the only affordable source of education for poor, have been totally ignored. In comparison, Pak economy spent a whooping Rs 1.596 trillion (5.846 % of GDP) on debt servicing during the last year, the debt siphoned off by the ruling elite and never used to better the life of common man, where more than half of population is living below the poverty line. We are a poor nation of this rich country. Private tutors or getting education in private schools, colleges, and universities is a distant dream for this nation. The poor people cannot afford to pay the fees private schools demand. There are a huge number of masked talents being destroyed in rural and poor urban areas which are required to be unveiled with proper opportunity.
The government should not shrink its responsibility through privatization. It should improve and strengthen the public sector schools instead of their loot sale like other privatized entities. Misappropriations in public sector educational institutions should be controlled. Once the teachers were ill paid but now the situation has altogether changed. Now they are getting good salaries many times more than their counterparts in private schools. The government is incurring huge funds in shape of salary and perks with almost zero contribution to the society. Low performing teachers should be made strictly accountable and their salaries should be tagged with their performance. Political corruption in the appointment of teachers and heads of educational institutions are one of the main reasons for inferior quality of education which may now come to an end.
— The writer is former banker based in Islamabad.

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