Karachi Board of Education: What happened to the sanctity of honest earnings?
Recently, I had to pay a visit to the Karachi Intermediate Board of Education in North Nazimabad because I had lost my original Intermediate admit and enrolment card, without which my Intermediate Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) could not be issued. In other words, I knew that I was bound to suffer that day at the hands of inept and inconsiderate government workers.
I took a day off from work to run my errand and headed towards the Karachi Board Office, where numerous students were sitting on the side-path, waiting for the administration office to open. Apparently, mornings at the Karachi Board Office begin around 10:30am. What’s more is that once these officers do decide to show up, they cannot be found in their seats. Upon inquiry, you’re told that they are gone for a tea break, which can stretch on for an hour or so, very easily.
Hence, when I reached, the officer who was supposed to handle my case was gone on one such tea break. While I waited for him, I noticed the cracked walls covered in spray paint with names of different political groups and their affiliations wall-chalked on them. At no point did this place seem like a ‘prestigious’ education board. Had it not been for the signpost outside the boundary, the board office would have been indistinguishable as a government building.
After what felt like an eternity, the officers returned to their respective offices and, begrudgingly, began attending to our queries. The board office follows an intricate (read: mindboggling) system of paperwork, very little of which is done with the officers themselves. Students are made to move from one window to another, filling up a variety of forms for only God knows what. These forms are supposed to be submitted to different offices with many counters. There were multiple times when I found myself standing in the middle of all the fiasco, not really sure where to go. A few times I even got lost and ended up somewhere entirely different than where I was supposed to be.
Finally, after getting lost for the nth time, I reached the appropriate counter from where I was supposed to get my documents duplicated. However, my troubles were far from over. At the counter before me were two middle-aged women, who were busy numbering their papers. I stood there and waited for them to notice that someone else was standing behind them, so that they might hurry. But that did not happen. Instead, I had to wait behind there while they debated on how Asr-e-Shireen has lost its taste, particularly on how their gulab jamuns are no longer as soft as they used to be. I could not help but interrupt this oh-so-important conversation so I could get out of this place. After receiving glaring looks from them, I was finally at the counter.
The officers looked at me, skimmed through my file and handed me another form. Then, he told me to get it signed from the room next door, where three men were busy indulging themselves in their chana chaat party. All I wanted was to get the forms signed and be done with the process but the young assistant at their office asked me to wait outside, while the three were done with their spicy treat.
Frustrated and annoyed, I thought to myself if this is how things actually worked in the government sector? Where the public waits while government officers fill their tummies. Within a few hours, the inevitable lunch break began. And no, they were not done with their chaat till then. I should inform you here that a government official’s lunch break is no ordinary one; it has a series of underlying stages. It starts with a break for Zuhr prayers and catch-up sessions with fellow employees from other offices, followed by reading the daily newspaper. And then, eventually, they move towards the actual lunch. This takes up a good two hours.
To be honest, I kept cursing myself throughout this ordeal for losing my original documents. I guess this was my punishment.
However, the plunder and insensitivity that was rampant in these offices bothered me greatly. Students had been waiting there for hours; some had come in early morning with the hopes of getting their work done sooner. Yet, their problems remained unsolved.
This behaviour by the officers gave away a clear message. If you want to get your work done, you better start bribing or wooing them with gifts. In current times, where inflation rates are rising exponentially, these employees have understood how to make matters work for them. So what, if the average citizen suffers as a result? As long as there is money flowing into their pockets, they are fine with what they are doing.
My worry is what happened to the sanctity of halal earnings?
How do these employees sleep at night, knowing about the amount of bribes they have taken?
Does their conscience not force guilt into their hearts?
Employment free from corruption and nepotism, for all, is a priority concern for Pakistan. The ministry of labour and manpower should conduct a periodic assessment of the current employment situation in the country. Countries experience progress and development principally through the work that they do. It is not just about having a job but the quality of employment that provides basic rights to services and a voice in decisions that affects the community.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.