Intro: Gilgit-Baltistan remains void of political representation and its education sector is deprived since the establishment of Pakistan’s control on 16th Nov 1947.
Gilgit-Baltistan can be rightly called the most down trodden colony of Pakistan. It has been deprived of its natural resources and its people continue to live a medieval lifestyle due to lack of basic facilities. The lack of proper educational facilities stands out as a particularly inhumane deprivation that Pakistan has heaped on the hapless people of the region.
Karakoram University is the only centre for higher education in the whole of Gilgit-Baltistan; it was also built as late as 2002 during the dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf. Successive governments thereafter made no effort beyond an initiative taken eight years later to establish the campus of Hussain Abad, University at Skardu in 2010. Unfortunately, the new campus is also constrained by paucity of funds and is an educational centre for namesake.
Lack of finances does not come as a surprise considering that education gets only 5.3 percent of the total budget of the province which is, in any case, frugal. The quoted education fund is a little more than thirty crore in Pakistani currency: Compared to it, the budgetary allocation to education in Jammu & Kashmir is Rs 734.66 crores (Indian currency) in the year 2014-15. The World Bank brought out an economic report on Gilgit-Baltistan in March 2011. The report puts primary school enrolment at 51 percent; middle school enrolment from stands at 17 percent; and the enrolment 10th class onwards at 14 percent is the most disquieting. Most of the schools in
the region have not been recognised by nodal educational agencies in Pakistan since they do not meet the parameters laid down.
|In 2012, only 3,587 students across
Gilgit-Baltistan, out of 12,004, passed the 9th class exam.
There is, unfortunately, no outlet for the talented in this regon. The 18 colleges in the region (ten for boys and eight for girls) are hardly sufficient for the needs of the region. There are no vocational, medical or engineering colleges in Gilgit-Baltistan; inauguration of the first medical college in the region was announced by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on September, 29, 2009. The college is nowhere near opening as yet. There are limited seats for students of this region in colleges across Pakistan.
Rampant corruption afflicts the education sector. Illegal appointments, fake certificates and other such nefarious activities are unbridled. There are some institutions where a student’s fee has been waived by the federal government, yet well-established mafias extract money from the students and the government officials are its beneficiaries too.
The biggest racket by far is in the selection and appointment of teacher’s right from the primary school to the university level. In many instances teachers selected have been found to be less qualified than the students they are required to teach. Undergraduates from Karachi University have been appointed to take classes for B.Sc honours in Karakoram University – can it get more ludicrous than this?
There are a number of international donor establishments that are ready to uplift the education levels of the region. The main impetus is coming from the Aga Khan Foundation that is looking at establishment of the Aga Khan University and institutes for educational/human development. AusAID (the Australian Agency for International Development) also launched an Education Development and Improvement Programme (EDIP) in 2010 mainly for differently abled children. Sadly, whatever little money comes by in the form of international aid is quickly eaten up by the members of the well entrenched mafia.
The federal government along with its stooge provincial government in Gilgit-Baltistan has got down to preparing a Vision-2025 document to address the present and future educational needs and challenges within the framework of the national education policy and project the same to the relevant stakeholders- the initiative is to sound the federal government good in areas such as international monitoring of the millennium development goals etc. Overall, the capacity of the education sector is so low that initially fundamental baby steps are required to give it an impetus and not focus the grandiose elements contained in the millennium goals. The silver lining and only hope are determined and brilliant young people of the region who are protesting to exhort the government to upgrade facilities instead of giving mere lip service.
The global community in general and India in particular should raise voice for the upliftment of this region.
Jaibans Singh (The writer is editor www.defenceinfo.com, [email protected])