Education, asserts the PTI chief Imran Khan, is the main focus of the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. “Nations are built and made prosperous not by building roads, motorways and Metro Trains but by investing heavily in its education programmes.”
Do, then, the KP’s budget allocations reflect the vision and commitment of its chief? Has it been successful in bringing the promised positive change in the education sector?
The budget for 2016-17 has an outlay of Rs505 billion with an Annual Development Programme (ADP) of Rs161 billion, down by 8 per cent from the current ADP of Rs174. The ADP includes Rs36 billion foreign component, up from Rs32 billion in the current fiscal.
Against the current year’s ADP of Rs22.2 billion for the education sector, Rs21.73 billion (Rs17.2 billion in local and Rs4.5 billion in foreign component) have been allocated for 132 projects — 109 ongoing and 23 new schemes in the sector.
Due to low utilisation, the current ADP has been revised from Rs174.88 billion to Rs135 billion with local ADP slashed from Rs142 billion to Rs113 billion and foreign component from Rs32.88 billion to Rs16.82 billion.
Going by the PTI claims of education being its top priority and after declaration of education emergency in its first budget in 2013, one thought there would be substantial/matchless allocations for and focus on the education sector but what has been witnessed thus far can best be described as business as usual.
The trend of total outlay of ADP and that of education ADP and their percentage against the total budget and total ADP respectively have remained pretty much stuck to the traditional pattern and no unusual impetus and urgency can be ascertained from the share of education in the ADPs so far.
KP is behind Punjab as regards percentage of ADP to total budget but is ahead of other provinces in terms of percentage of education ADP to total ADP, though at a dismal percentage of 13 per cent.
Though as usual the total outlay of the budgets and ADPs has been on the rise since the PTI took power in 2013-14, the percentage of ADP in total budget and that of education in total ADPs has been on the decline.
The total outlay and percentage of education ADPs in overall ADPs was Rs22 billion and 22.8 per cent in 2012. These increased to Rs29.8 billion and 25 per cent in 2013. But then the outlay of education ADPs came down to Rs26 billion, 22 billion and 21 billion in the next three years while percentage of education ADP vis-à-vis total ADPs also dipped from 25 per cent to 18.7 and 12.7 per cent but slightly rose to 13.5 per cent this year.
And the decline in these figures would have been colossal had the foreign component of ADP not registered sharp rise since 2011. Of the total education ADPs of Rs13 billion, Rs22 billion, Rs29 billion, Rs26 billion, Rs22 billion and Rs21 billion from 2011 to 2016, the share of foreign funded components stood at Rs3 billion, Rs9.8 billion, Rs16 billion, Rs11.8 billion, Rs5.8 billion and Rs4.5 billion in that order.
Cognisant of the declining ADP for the sector, the PTI sympathisers on social media take pride in ‘a record budget allocation’ and try to confuse things by giving the figures of total outlay of education budget (current+development) which is Rs132 billion (Rs111 billion current+Rs21 development) this year as the sector warrants bulk share (salary and administrative budget) for being the biggest department of KP in terms of human resource and infrastructure.
The department and ADPs try to do too much with meagre funds and time available to it. As a result, no full-blown development initiatives are seen.
The PTI government has prepared an Education Sector Plan 2015-20. It has the backing of several party think-tanks that famously talked of having prepared the party vision and promised bringing a change in first 90 days of its government. The government has taken several steps so far generally and in the education sector specifically — end/decrease of political interference in transfer and appointments, merit-based appointments, autonomy in budgets to schools, improved staff attendance through independent monitors, provisions of furniture and equipments and construction.
But their achievements during the period could have been better if instead of working in bits and pieces they had truly focussed attention and resources on the priority sectors for a couple of years. And rather than thinly distributing money over numerous schemes as earlier, the government could have focussed on/allocated funds to limited areas/schemes to ensure timely completion of schemes against the present strategy where meagre funds are spent in phases on numerous projects.
To reduce and control throw-forward, 54pc of the total ADP has been earmarked for the ongoing and 46pc for the new projects. And of Rs21.7 billion allocated for 132 projects in the education sector, Rs13.6 billion or 79 per cent has been reserved for 109 ongoing while Rs3.57 billion or 21 per cent for 23 new projects. Bifurcation of Rs4.5 billion foreign component of sector’s ADP for 5 projects is not available.
The throw-forward liability has been on the rise. Budget utilisation figures also vary. Muhammad Atif Khan, Provincial Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) Department, claimed budget utilisation has been 100 per cent this year and 101 per cent last year.
The KP Finance Department website, as accessed on June 20, shows an overall utilisation ratio of 59 per cent by June 10, 2016 with 63 per cent utilisation in the ESE (Rs10.1 billion of budget estimates of Rs15.9 billion of both local and foreign ADP) and 49.5 per cent for HE (Rs3.06 of Rs6.18 billion utilised).
Sardar Husain Babak, ANP parliamentary party leader in KP Assembly, laments low utilisation and increase in throw-forward liability. “The throw forward of KP government in 2012 was Rs50 billion. It stands at Rs415 billion now. Then, a scheme took on average 21 months to complete. It now takes 55 months for poor budget utilisation ratio. Average international throw-forward period is 3 years,” he argued.
Atif Khan said 160 new primary schools and 100 secondary schools will be established, 100 seminaries will be converted into primary schools, and 14000 vacancies of teachers will be filled through National Testing Service (NTS). “We will build 6-room primary and 11-room secondary schools. 1400 new girls community schools have been established where 68000 children, including 45000 girls, are getting education. We will open new 1300 such schools.”
Asked how can the PTI prove that it gives top priority to the education sector as claimed by the PTI leader Imran Khan, Atif Khan claimed they have increased overall budgetary allocation to the sector and its share in the budget and ADP.
Babak said they don’t know how to do things. “They follow the policy: do nothing but look busy through media hype/support. It seems they have no plans for effective governance.” He said they talked of uniform curriculum. “Is there uniform curriculum in all private schools, deeni madaris and the government schools now?”
“Their governance improvement criteria are meant only for crippling the local institutions to benefit their financers from other provinces. KP’s esteemed Educational Testing and Evaluation Agency ETEA has been made dysfunctional as inductions are made through Islamabad-based NTS. And the local textbooks printing industry has been sidelined and printing contracts have been given to contractors from Punjab in the name of open competitive bidding. They are building smart schools. These are container schools meant only to oblige the container mafia of PTI financers. Why don’t they build normal schools?” questions Babak.
In a survey conducted by this scribe, of the 38 respondents, 6 or 15 per cent respondents totally agreed, 16 or 42 per cent partially agreed/disagreed and 16 or 42 per cent totally disagreed with the question whether the PTI has brought about any positive change in the education sector.
Those who agreed cited better staff attendance, merit-based inductions, end of political interference, provision of furniture and budgetary autonomy to schools.
Those who disagreed cited low funds utilisation, disrespectful behaviour of IMU Monitors with teachers, over-ambitiousness or immaturity in some decisions like ‘school-based entire service’ or ‘one leave a month’ and NTS-based inductions on contract basis with no security for teachers such as no transfer, no annual increments and no CPF or GPF.