KARACHI: Despite billions of rupees being spent on the education sector, 55 per cent children aged between five and 16 in Sindh are out of school, it emerged on Sunday.
Among the out-of-school children, 61pc are girls, reflecting a disturbing gender disparity in school education.
In its latest report on the state of children, the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) quoted the figures of the Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPAM) as saying that 55pc children aged five to 16 were out of school in Sindh. “Another factor of concern is the gender disparity, which in Sindh is the second worst in the country after Balochistan with as many as 61pc of out-of-school children being girls,” said the report.
In Sindh, it added, 4,123 schools were not functional and 1,261 schools are permanently closed while a total of 39,772 schools were functional.
It said despite the encouraging increase in the education budget for Sindh, there were many challenges related to capacity and corruption. “For example,” said the report, “in the 2015-16 fiscal year the Sindh government allocated Rs12.6 billion for pre-primary, primary and secondary education, which was under a non-salary budget. However, by April 2016, the province could not spend more than 30pc of the allocated funds.”
Similarly, said the report, the expenditure in the previous financial year was Rs102.2bn against the allocation of Rs157.9bn, which amounted to around 64.7pc of the allocated funds.
During the current year, Sindh allocated Rs160.7bn for education sector. “This sum was significantly higher than various other sectors such as law enforcement (Rs83bn), and health (Rs65.9bn). The government also announced the creation of 10,000 jobs in the education sector, out of its 50,000 job creation target for the current financial year,” said the report.
It said the share of the education budget for Sindh for the current year was 19pc of the total outlay. Although, it said, the allocated budget for pre-primary and primary education was slashed by 9pc to 55.3pc, respectively against a total allocation of Rs60.6bn the previous year, the budgetary allocations were significantly increased (by 31pc) for secondary education from Rs36.6bn in 2015-16 to Rs48bn for this financial year.
“The budgetary allocation for tertiary education remained virtually stagnant with a slight decline of 0.2pc from Rs28.5bn in 2015-16 to Rs28.04bn in 2016-17. The increase in funds included more school-specific budgets, as well as girls’ stipends, funds for school management committees and for model schools in each district.”
The report quoted a former education secretary as promising previously that Sindh government’s aim was to foster early childhood development by dealing with issues related to resource allocation and teachers’ recruitment cadre.