KARACHI: With the announcement of the budget for the new fiscal year, it seems as if the provincial government’s ‘top priorities’ are clear: around 21 per cent of the total budgetary outlay of Rs617 billion has been allocated for education. This amount, which forms the lion’s share, comes to around Rs132.2 billion.
The announced budget for education has kept in line with previous trends: for the fiscal year 2012-13, the government had proposed an unprecedented 60 per cent increase for the department. For the fiscal year before that, the allocation for the education sector was raised by a massive Rs45 billion.
While people across the province have yet to witness the fruits of the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government’s education budget for 2012-13, the government has proposed a further 18 per cent increase for recurrent expenditures and development in the educator sector.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said, “This budget, like the one we had presented for the fiscal year 2012-13, is reflective of the PPP government’s strong commitment to the development of education sector.” He added that his party’s aim is to get all children into classrooms where they would be provided quality education.
As far as the development budget goes, the amount allocated for the new fiscal year has been bumped up to Rs13.48 billion — Rs1 billion more than the outgoing fiscal year. The increase has come despite the fact that the government only managed to utilise around half of its allocated development budget in the fiscal year 2012-13. An amount of Rs118.7 billion has been allocated for recurring expenditures in the education department.
During his budget speech, the chief minister said that the government has made skills development a ‘political priority’ because of its importance in poverty alleviation. That’s why for the next fiscal year, the government has allocated Rs785.7 million for technical and vocational training.
The chief minister also said the government had planned to initiate the Sindh Education Reform Programme (SERP-II) for which the World Bank has agreed to provide an amount of US$400 million for four years till June 2017. The project’s objective, he said, was to raise enrollment levels by improving governance, accountability and administrative systems.
Projects in the pipeline
The provincial government has also claimed to reserve Rs2.2 billion as grants for the Sindh Education Foundation. This is the organisation which, in collaboration with the provincial education department, encouraged entrepreneurs to establish around 1,300 schools in slums under public-private partnership schemes. The entrepreneurs were, however, left in the lurch as the government drew back its promised funds, stirring quite a bit of brouhaha.
In the new fiscal year, the government intends to complete major development projects in the education sector. They include setting up one school in each district which would offer Cambridge International Examinations O’ and A’ level programmes. The estimated cost of this would be Rs1.25 billion. The government also intends to spend around Rs500 million on a computerised education management system. In addition, a comprehensive school will be established in each district.
When it comes to higher education, there are a couple of projects in the pipeline too: engineering colleges will be established in Khairpur and Larkana while Hala, Dadu and Lyari will each have their own law college. The government also intends to build a degree college for women in Naudero. Cadet colleges will also be established for girls in Shaheed Benazirabad and for boys in Dadu, Mithi and Khairpur.