Will the people of Punjab stand up for education? Because the government just cut the budget – again

Published: July 3, 2016
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Worse, female literacy actually declined by two per cent during this period of time. PHOTO: REUTERS

“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.” (Thomas Payne)

In the midst of so much uncertainty there is one thing in Pakistan that can be predicted with absolute confidence: administrative policy. We can rest assured that the average reprobate and hanger-on populating the federal and provincial assemblies will do everything possible to prevent the nation from progressing. Case in point: the Punjab Assembly has cut the budget allocation for the education sector from 21% in the last fiscal year to 18.6% for 2016-17.

Furthermore, the allocation of 21% in the last fiscal year was 3% down from the previous year, which in turn was down 2% from the year before. So, since 2013, Punjab has cut a total of 7.4% allocation from education.

Let’s see what glorious strides have allowed the Punjab Assembly to justify these cuts.

The last major release of literacy statistics was the Pakistan Economic Survey (PEC) which used data from the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) study completed in 2015.

According to this survey, Punjab had increased its overall literacy by 1% between 2012 and 2015 missing each and every target set by local or foreign agencies. Worse yet was that female literacy actually declined by 2% during this period of time.

Conclusion?

The Punjab Government has woefully faltered in making any meaningful strides in adult literacy. As the survey shows, almost 40% of the population remains illiterate.

On paper, the Punjab Budget looks like it does every year. You would think that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Panama Canal would pale in comparison to what the folks on Mall Road are conjuring up next. The obsession with building roads and infrastructure is commendable (and is the one thing that actually appears to materialise from paper) to the extent that it does not take away from other crucial sectors. This, unfortunately, is exactly what is happening. The allocations in the Annual Development Program (ADP) have significantly been increased for roads, railways and other infrastructure projects at the expense of education.

Ultimately the issue is that Pakistan is yet to understand the importance of education. We can build as many highways, bridges and metro rails as we want but if we do not have a workforce with the knowledge and skill to generate and sustain a robust economy, they will crumble in our faces.

Education is not just attaining a certification or degree; it is the basic building block of a country’s economy and civil society. It is the road out of poverty and disfranchisement. It is the light that can help banish extremism and bigotry.

Education, especially university education, enables the growth of the middle class which in turn increases tax revenue, market potential and investment. It is the only thing that can transform a society both economically, as well as intellectually. This is what the member of the Punjab Assembly must understand. Unfortunately, an enlightened and educated society is not in the best interest of those who are beholden to vested interest and whose careers rely on the politics of biradari, cult and corruption.

It is futile to hope for any better from the current administration. The people of Punjab must think long and hard before casting their vote next year and pay extra attention to those who put education at the forefront of their agenda.

 

Khusro Tariq

Khusro Tariq

The author is a Pakistani-American Psychiatrist currently pursuing training in Jungian psychoanalysis. He blogs on Huffington Post on matters of psychology, faith, politics and poetry. He tweets as @KhusroKhwaja (twitter.com/khusrokhwaja)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sami

    21 percent allocation for Education is still on the higher side than the rest of provinces. Even it is higher than many state allocations of the countries in the world.
    Furthermore Punjab leads in overall Provincial education and overall indicators point to that.
    Rather than Focusing on the budget now the focus should be on teacher’s training and curriculum of education. Allocation of higher budgets does not equate to higher status of education. Middle eastern countries have a multi-billion Dollar education budget. But they are acheiving nothing compared to less but Efficient budget of the Developed countries.
    So people of Punjab are already woken up. We believe in Proper management rather than mindlessly allocating budget without any oversight.Recommend

  • Gowpeet

    There are people living in Punjab? Huh? No, only sheep.
    There are no people there. Just millions of Punjabi speaking
    sheep.
    Who do what Nawaz and his cabal tells them to do.Recommend

  • Pakistan

    You see there is no kickback or commissionon this ‘business’. We saw school kids of Jatiumra sitting on stones and bricks as desks which they collected themselves with their little hands. Jatiumra is the Nawaz Shabaz real estate and this unfortunate school is intge vicinity. This should give Punjab a fairly good idea of priorities of Shabaz Sharif.Recommend

  • anjum

    Shameful act of punjab GovtRecommend

  • Bibloo

    Wow ! What jingoist words. Brainwashed zombie supporters
    Nawaz and his cabal will write, and say ANYTHING to protect their owners.
    After all it is called peon mentality. PEON meaning being owned lock,
    stock and barrel by your master. In this case they are owned by Nawaz bin Salman bin Abdelaziz bin Raiwind.Recommend