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Financing education in K-P

There is something terribly wrong when government schools are funded through private donations

There is something terribly wrong when government schools are funded through private donations and private madrassas are funded through citizens’ tax money. The Elementary Education Foundation of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government started the Tameer-e-School (TeS) programme in 2014, through which citizens and organisations were requested to donate funds towards the improvement of deserving government schools in K-P. The website provides a list of such schools. Donations were requested for improving the dismal infrastructure in schools by adding missing facilities such as toilets, additional classrooms, computer labs, furniture, boundary walls, and safe drinking water. The K-P government carried out an elaborate publicity campaign, spending Rs33 million. Who can forget the picture of Imran Khan and Shahid Afridi with kids on small benches in a primary school of Swabi district? In the first phase, total 1,069 such schools were identified where basic facilities were missing. So far, the K-P government could raise only Rs33.29 million for this programme through donations. Total required amount for the first phase of the programme is Rs2 billion.

Why should the citizens donate for public facilities for which they have already paid taxes? This was the basic point missed by K-P government while devising the TeS programme. With the same token, why would the government use citizens tax money for Darul Uloom Haqqania in Akora Khattak, a private venture and that too with the whopping Rs300 million? This money is almost nine times more than what the K-P government could collect for the TeS programme through a publicised campaign. Why was this Rs300 million not allocated for the 1,069 government schools which the K-P government identified as the most deserving?

The K-P government came up with many justifications for funding Darul Uloom Haqqania in Akora Khattak. These included madrassa reforms and continuation of the previous ANP government policy to fund mosques. Regarding the madrassa reforms, no one heard of any such policy of the incumbent K-P government till the funding was allocated to Darul Uloom Haqqania. K-P has not yet devised provincial health policy, which is comparatively, a less sensitive matter. Expecting the K-P government to get involved in the burning issue of madrassa reforms is asking for too much. Yes, the policy of appeasement does exist, unwritten though, and this funding seems to be the part of that policy.

There is no denying the fact that madrassas in Pakistan are feeding and providing shelter to the poorest of the poor children in Pakistan. I also believe that children who are studying in these madrassas are the first causality, if they are brainwashed and used for terrorism, and we should be protecting them first. However, just throwing money into madrassas will not protect these children. Should the government go with its decision to fund this madrassa then? Taxpayer citizens should have the right to know about the reforms process in this madrassa as well. Citizens should know why it is that only this madrassa, out of many thousands in K-P, was selected. Citizens should have the assurance that their tax money will not be used by this madrassa for any terrorist activity and that this madrassa has no link with or any support for any extremist or terrorist group, within or outside of Pakistan. Since the madrassa is now ‘substantially funded’ by the K-P government, it shall fall now under the definition of a ‘public body’ and should designate a Public Information Officer under the K-P Right to Information Act 2013. That Public Information Officer shall be responsible for providing timely information to citizens regarding any aspect of the madrassa, as and when required by citizens. The madrassa should also launch a website to proactively disclose information such as audit reports, management structure, students details and so on.

The justification based on precedents from the ANP-era government must not be given any weight. Though the ANP did not fund a single madrassa, the policy of funding private madrassas without having any madrassa reforms policy can’t be justified no matter what the pretexts were. One wrong by ANP can’t make another wrong by the PTI right.

To provide quality education to every child is the government’s responsibility. The K-P government has not yet enacted the right to a law making education compulsory, though it is the constitutional obligation after the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Article 25-A clearly advocates free and compulsory education for all children falling between the ages of five to sixteen. The government can’t just abdicate itself from this responsibility by outsourcing this responsibility to private schools or madrassas. There should be a policy on madrassa reforms. Under such a policy, the madrassas should be bound to teach a government-approved syllabus and teacher appointment and training strategy should be devised. There should also be a monitoring mechanism of these madrassas. Do we have assurance from the K-P government about all these steps regarding Darul Uloom Haqqania and that the Rs300 million will not be used just for ‘reconstruction and rehabilitation’?