Following the school paisa

Let me say a few words on the state of education sector in Punjab province which houses more than half of the country’s population and hub of social and economic development. Its capital has also called “political capital” of the country reflecting significance in shaping the political landscape of the country. So, beyond no doubt, developments in this part of the country mostly affects the development trajectory overall. Education, a guaranteed constitutional right of every child in Pakistan approved under the 18th amendment has fully charged the social environment in the province.
In the last few years, the provincial government has also taken meritorious steps in transforming the education landscape of the province by pumping more physical and human resources into the system. School improvements, provision of missing facilities, consolidation of primary schools, recruitments of teachers and induction of subject specialists are major steps for improvements in school education. A question always pinches me that too much resource have been allocated and distributed to the districts for service provision but the outcomes still remain at the lowest ebb. Punjab Millennium Development Goals Report 2011 depicts the dilapidated education state clearly signalizing towards missing of most of MDGs targets including education.
A distinctive debate clearly provides food for thought for public policy analysts that public money allocated to the education sector has not fully realized. This is obvious that money does not reach out to the intended users of education facility, so the question arises where does this go? The organizations involved in budget work in Pakistan, although few in numbers have seen it as a gigantic and tedious job to find out exact expenditures incurred. However, a culture has developed in last the few years when the civil society and the media has started using budget numbers in generating debate on education and its likely outcomes. This has really opened new ways of exploring the budget realities beyond its limits. In Punjab, education sector typically represents 60% of district budget provides an ample space for civil society to peep into the system and find out possible bottlenecks hindering education expenditures. The task is to follow the school money.
Globally, advanced tools have been employed to study the flow of public resources to various government hierarchies. Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (PETS), a tracking tool has been first implemented in Uganda, produced unprecedented results including a decline in leakages in grants to schools from 80% in 1994 to 20% in 2001. The successful model has been picked up by other countries including Peru, Zambia, India, and Nepal brought results in key social sectors including primary education. Overall, PETS remains successful in identifying the low allocations, leakages, corruption, underlying reasons of weak resource delivery to the users including bureaucratic hurdles, administrative red-tapism and political pressures.
This is a well discussed fact that the previous government has prioritized the construction of mega physical projects including Metro Bus System in Lahore, which results in major redirection of resources from social sectors. In budget analyst jargon, it is termed as leakage which is usually unearthed by employing sophisticated expenditure tracking tools. Although, no significant research has focused on this exploring exact numbers behind this huge leakage from social sectors which will definitely hamper social development in the province.
In a diagnostic study initiated by CPDI, an Islamabad based think tank made use of expenditure tracking in the education sector. The early findings reveal that schools in Punjab do not get the intended public money allocated for their development and current expenditures. The leakage is rampant in all public schools. A clear distinction mark between salary and non-salary where schools do not get enough operational funds and the worst affected are primary schools. However, elementary and secondary get minimal funds which helps operate the school daily affairs.
This compels the school administration to raise funds either from the community or charge students. This fact is also verified from a World Bank study of 79 countries including Pakistan that 97 percent of end-users are charged some form of fees for education. Informal chats with school staff also revealed that students have to pay between Rs. 20 to Rs. 50 per month and the funds, thus raised, are utilized to pay utility charges and for minor repairs. Findings also reveal that 40 students from a primary school drop out and refuse to continue education at public school. Charging students is an absolute violation of Article-25 A which guarantees free education to all school going children.
Expenditure tracking unearth violation of the constitution of Pakistan and show the inability of the provincial government on implementation of Article-25A. Punjab government should devise student friendly education policy and strategies provide an enabling environment for free education to all school going children. CSOs should also work closely with the provincial government and provide research findings for effective implementation of Article-25A.
Gulbaz Ali Khan
The author is a social accountability practitioner based at Islamabad and may be reached at
The Frontier Post

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