Imran Khan, the would-be premier of Pakistan, in his maiden speech on July 26, 2018 after his outright victory in the 2018 general elections mentioned that around 25 million children are out of schools in Pakistan. This fascinated those who are keen to see the underprivileged join good schools if it is possible in our country. Cricket star-turned-politician and now the likely prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan promised to do every effort to make Pakistan a welfare state amid making education, jobs and peace the top priorities to bring back glory for the country.
It was way back in August 2013 when Imran Khan went all-out for the education reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and emphasized that the Millennium Development Goals must be achieved during the rule of his political party in the province. His focus primarily was on the primary and secondary education. He wanted an effective management and monitoring system of public sector schools throughout KPK. He envisaged overwhelming success by the end of the tenure of his party-led government in the province. Endeavours were made for an effective enrolment campaign since he wanted to ensure that whatever he had envisioned should come true prior to the next elections.
After a month in September 2013 Imran Khan did stress on a uniform education system across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and was adamant that there should not be separate education systems for the rich and the poor. He was determined to have same education system in the same schools for the privileged and the underprivileged. He instructed the relevant authorities to ensure that more than two and a half million not-enrolled children in KPK be encouraged to join schools. He time and again monitored the progress and ensured that the enrolment campaign is gaining momentum. He desired enrolment as planned and high standards of education across the province.
Four years down the road in February last year, Imran Khan claimed that 34,000 students of private schools had abandoned the so-called quality education providers and joined the government-run schools which spoke volumes of the quality being delivered in the government-run schools of KPK compared to the private schools. This was unprecedented in the history of Pakistan in any of the provinces. Critics did praise the efforts of the KPK government for this milestone in the education sector.
Prevalent assumption across Pakistan is that government schools are for the poor and the private schools are for the middle and rich strata of the society. Imran Khan’s education reforms proved this assumption wrong in KPK where government schools became choice of many right from the poor to middle to rich classes of the society. His dream came true though not in its entirety, however, the efforts did pay off benefiting thousands of families throughout KPK which also resulted in resounding victory of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in KPK once again. Many consider this the faith of people in the leadership and it is widely acknowledged that Imran Khan can deliver not only in KPK but also across Pakistan.
There are more than 7,000 private schools across KPK with around two million students. Some believe that the state of government schools is far better than many private schools which has resulted in many students moving from private to public schools which indicates feather in PTI cap.
PAGE visited Swabi, Mardan, Noushera, Charsada, Banu, Karak, Kohat, Lucky Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan in 2016 during the reform process of PTI for the education sector. PAGE noted that government school buildings were better and the teachers were well-paid and competent as well. The situation is far better today with the implementation of the education reforms initiated by PTI in 2013 in KPK.
Providing free transport for girls if schools are far from their homes, setting up community schools in hundreds in far-off areas, establishing smart schools in containers, constructing boundary walls and toilets are also the initiatives within short span of time which have brought about the success of the process.
A lot is yet to be done. There are still thousands of girls as well as boys out of schools in KPK today.
Budget allocation for education does not seem to be the priority of the political governments in Pakistan with less than two and a half percent of GDP. Our neighbouring countries allocate far greater amount for education whereas we are one of the lowest in the region attracting attention of the world. Due to the 18th Constitutional amendment, education is the responsibilities of the provinces. Let’s see what Imran Khan does incase his government is formed in at least three out of four provinces of Pakistan.
Way back in the year 2002, Imran Khan exhibited his determination to rid the nation of the class-based educational system and vowed to declare an education emergency in the country if his party came into power. Imran Khan has got the power in 2018. Let’s see whether he keeps his promise for the betterment of the education system of Pakistan.