Bribery – The Curse on Education in Pakistan

November 22, 2017 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , Pakistan

Susan Manuel/WFP photo

 

By

Zeeshan A. Shah

 

Pakistan currently faces an education emergency with over 65% of the youth graduate population opting to leave the country instead of living and working here due to a lack of opportunities after completing formal education in Pakistan. There is a constant brain drain in the nation with one of the highest youth populations. The Constitution of Pakistan contains visible solutions on improving education in the country but despite the advent of laws and various amendments, practical outcomes remain dormant and negligible efforts have been seen in this matter.

Globally, there is an education crisis. War in many regions has destroyed hopes for a stable education system for the generation most affected by war and related impacts leading to man-made disaster situations, reducing opportunities for education through peace. Many children around the world live in crisis situations, the causes of which are out of their family’s control. Children in conflict today are suffering from a wide range of man-made problems and epidemics in violation of their basic rights as children. In essence, child rights are human rights that are being violated without empathy on the part of their parents, teachers, neighbors, society and above all the government itself.

 

Elsewhere, there is another epidemic that is impeding the rise of education. It is the rise of corruption in the education sector and the emergence of bribery as the key component within formal academic institutes. Teachers being hired to teach are being recruited on the basis of nepotism as opposed to on merit and credentials. We are slowly being deprived of academia as, despite a huge demand for qualified teachers, jobs are being given after taking bribes by the local government and hiring officials of the provincial government.

This is leading to a systematic decay in the overall quality of academics being parted to students. The need for teacher training rises further as the training costs incurred are diluted due to wrong teachers taking on training but not being able to impart it further through to the students leading to inferior quality of output once the students graduate. Plus, jobs out there are limited to people with connections and influence.

Bribery in education hence becomes the first and foremost challenge for this country establishing a direct link between corruption and child rights. Here is how the link is created. In Pakistan, less than 2% of the GDP is spent on Education whereas over 21% percent is being spent on defense. It is ironic to see here that the actual defense mechanism or the root-defense of the country is the children of the country that is being ignored blatantly and with immense cruelty, year after year by the government.

Another factor that leads to corruption is the fact that whatever little otherwise that is actually spent within the sector is not entirely allotted to that particular area and is going in the wrong pockets. A case in point is the percentage of ghost schools that exist within rural parts of the country, with teachers taking salaries without even attending school or parting education, due to shelter by the corrupt higher officials under the influence of the political elite that exercise power to ensure that the system remains dysfunctional as they take bribes across the board.

Our government school system is completely destroyed as no one sends their children to those schools due to lack of quality of teachers, unhygienic school environment, lack of funds to build a minimum acceptable infrastructure, poor premises upkeep and non-productive administration and faculty at schools and colleges. Hence, almost every other parent is relying on either private schooling or schools being run by NGOs.

 

In the past 10 years in the province of Sindh in Pakistan, hundreds of public schools have been abandoned and abundantly destroyed by poor or no governance. Teachers are not accounted for, illegal appointment of teachers is rampant, merit is a non-entity and no teacher training has been imparted to meet acceptable regional or global education standards.

The text book board of Sindh is not equipped with capable linguistic experts, unqualified or fake degree holders recruited as instructors and teachers and the emergence of Ghost Schools. Cultural inhibitions also reduce the level further as most women are not encouraged to send the daughters to school as they are illiterate themselves. Over 53% of the country is women alone- how can the education become a basic child right when the women of that country are being pushed back into illiteracy by this culture of ignorance and no legal remedy available to women.

Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan states “the state or the government is responsible to provide free education to all children irrespective of their social or community status, from the ages of 6-12 across the country.” Now having formulated this under law, practically this is far from being achieved as the system does not bind the government to ensure how that child will be sent to school as they themselves manipulate the system to create the above mentioned conditions that actually leads to the failure of the subject Article from being implemented. This is due to the immense corruption in the Education Sector.

Last year, the education ministry of the province recruited thousands of under-qualified teachers without following the due-diligence and actually inducted them on board, without following basic rules and regulations or selection criteria purely on political pressure and through major bribes. The same teachers were later suspended by the next education minister who led to citywide and countrywide protests, covered by the media leading to a legal battle that is still pending in the courts. Till date, those teachers are still not fully functional on the jobs as they were not hired on merit in the first place despite paying huge sums of bribes to the higher ups in the ministry.

Eventually, the teachers protested in the streets against illegal postings, lack of funds, poor salaries and nepotism, they were public harassed by government officials and also put behind bars. This kind of illegal activity has been flourishing in the education system for decades, undeterred and under-reported. The five basic reasons for this unstoppable and ruthless corruption include; 1) No political will to resolve the conflict; 2) Loss of hope; 3) Lack of resources; 4) Internal and External prejudice; 5) Exploitation by business; 6) All of them are linked to one outcome – Bribery.

 

Millions of funds that are given by external agencies or support funds are not allocated to the sector as funds are illegally extorted or pulled out of the system by the very people who have been hired to protect the system. This includes the Bureaucracy, Government and the Judiciary – leading to one of the worst examples of Governance in history.

Bribery in education is also one of the basic reasons that the country was never ever able to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the SDGs – sustainable development goals in Education – failing beyond expectations on global levels. This has become a source of embarrassment for the country and its helpless youth and children of Pakistan.

Recently, the President of Pakistan announced that Rs.250 will be spent on every poor child on a monthly basis to acquire education. How can a child acquire education for the entire month in just Rs250, when the cost of education per child including his books, clothes and daily lunch costs a lot more than Rs 250 per child?

This was to help 6.7 million children achieve basic education when the same government has done nothing to create a minimum acceptable environment around the children in their schools and continue to ignore the bribery culture that remains rampant in the system today. The entire system needs to be monitored for accountability.

To start with, the Minister for Education portfolio should not be allotted to a politician or party candidate but should be given to an expert belonging to the education fraternity with years of substantial credentials to proof that he can hold that portfolio. This is the first step towards transparency in the schools riddled with loopholes.

Huge funds are being wasted away instead of being spent on the institutes and their development. Secondly, more student scholarships and global alliances with foreign reputed education institutes should take place. Finally, the board of trustees of these institutes should not be solely appointed on a political basis, as it is being done today.

 

We have also completely ignored the UNCRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child). To begin with, that is the preamble for success in the sector where a 360 degree mindset change is required. Under Article 31 of the CRC, we must create space and time for play and recreation in schools and play spaces for our children and make children get more involved in cultural and artistic activities which helps groom the child on the “Whole Child“ approach, above and beyond just academics and grading systems.

Children today see their “Play Spaces” being marginalized (homes and schools) and relationships (friends and families) leading to reduced and restricted opportunities for free-play. Culturally, the child today is far more isolated than ever due to a paradigm shift in family structures from a previous joint family system into a nuclear family system, relying more on parental guidance today than ever before. Huge change is therefore required within the early childhood sector.

Today, our youth is under immense pressure to acquire jobs and study hard to compete globally as educated citizens and we are failing as a system because the most literate people who are at the helm of affairs given the responsibility to ensure justice in education, are themselves part of the biggest ring of corruption, behaving like illiterates focusing on personal ambition and greed tactics, taking bribes while ignoring the fact that they are part of the educational upheaval and hold immensely valuable ethical and morally responsive roles and are answerable to the country.

Exposing bribery is our basic right as responsible citizens of the country and more needs to be done to eradicate this curse on education.

 

 

 

 

Zeeshan A. Shah

The writer is a Director at CNNA Pakistan – a leading advocacy institute and is an expert on International Relations and Education Policy.

With over 150 publications in major local and global social media & newspapers, he has been instrumental in producing over 5000 radio broadcasts aired globally.

A thought leader, environmental journalist, media broadcaster and a change maker with an acute focus on development affairs & education for Pakistan.

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