Working as a Research Associate and evaluating government policies and private sector interventions, it is often very uplifting to see the different initiatives planned for reform. During fieldwork one comes across different cases; instances where the public sector is doing a wonderful job, or where the public sector is failing but the community and private sector takes over, and then there are cases where both are failing.
While it is almost always encouraging to see that despite the lack of facilities and teacher absenteeism in government schools, the zeal and enthusiasm to learn is always present in young children in rural areas and the community steps up to fulfill this demand where needed. I recently came across a case where it was very disheartening to see both failing.
During our ASER 2016 survey in Tando Allah Yaar, we observed that the villages were dependent on government schools and there weren’t any low cost private schools operating in the locality. In the village of Jinan Hingoro,we came across a government school which was operational but had no government teachers appointed. It was adopted by a private organization, but its run down state left us in much disappointment. The bathrooms were broken and not at all usable, the furniture was in dismal conditions, the roof was coming apart, and there were goats and chicken roaming around on the small premises with a tractor parked right outside.
What was most disappointing was the fact that this school was only 2 km away from the Mirpukhas Highway and so issues of accessibility could not have been a major factor for its condition. With significant amounts being allocated under the School Specific Budgetin the FY 2016-17 and funds being set aside in the ADP for infrastructure maintenance and development, one begins to wonder about its utilization. Despite of the monitoring and evaluation department being set up, if the government is not able to identify and take care of a school that is accessible and so close to a highway, then when and where will there be any real change?
On the other end, what was upsetting was the fact thatthe school was surrounded by proper buildings and housing indicating that the community was well equipped to have taken some action but even they failed to do so. In this scenario who was to be blamed? It is the responsibility of every citizen to work as an agent for change for the cause of educating our children to prevent the inter-generational transmission of poverty. Examples like these stand out to highlight that despite seeming progress on paper and plans, there is still much left to be done on ground in the Education sector. Moreover, in junction to the public sector’s efforts, the demand and willingness to take actions must come from the community and the citizens themselves too. ASER Teams highlights such challenges across Pakistan every year and will continue to do so.