The equation is a fairly simple one. No teacher and no administrator equals no education at schools. To simplify things further, no education or grossly inadequate education in the public sector means a continued deprivation of the right to learn for millions in the country.Yet, while the problems of education have been extensively discussed and pledges made to achieve 100 percent primary enrolment within a few years, very little has been done on the ground to change the existing situation at schools even in the country’s most developed province. A report in this newspaper, based on information collected under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, over 2,600 schools in the province run without anyone to head them. About 182 of these schools are based in Rawalpindi and scores of others scattered in almost every other district in the province. Claims by the public information officer for Punjab that the number had fallen since last year were proved incorrect by the discovery that in the Jhang district there were now over 90 public high schools that lacked a principal compared to around 70 in 2013.
This information is not encouraging. Nor are the reports from Sindh, that over 2,500 schools remain closed due to lack of teaching staff. The chief minister of Sindh has ordered that notice be taken of this and also of the 1,100 other schools which have been declared unfeasible. A World Bank funded monitoring programme at the cost of $66 million is to go in place to assess the position of schools running in Sindh. The fact that we lack the administrative ability to run schools efficiently is disturbing. The Punjab Teachers Union (PTU) has attributed the failure to place heads at schools to slow promotions and also pointed out that handing over schools to NGOs reflects governmental failure. In Sindh too, the situation remains disturbing. The claim by the current government that some 5,000 schools had been reopened since it came to power does not appear to translate into reality. Many of these schools barely run. We badly need to examine our education structure as a whole and find mechanisms to plug the gaps that make it so disorderly. First of all a basic political will and commitment is needed. It is essential, for multiple reasons, that we ensure that public sector schools are able to provide meaningful learning to pupils if we are ever to overcome our educational shortcomings. Appointing principals and teachers to schools would seem to be a basic step towards achieving this goal.