The Road to Corruption in Pakistan...

The road to corruption? By Zubeida Mustafa
Dawn, 16 Sep, 2009

For many decades governments in Pakistan considered it a waste of resources to invest in education.

This was such a neglected sector that those aspiring to a ministerial portfolio generally shunned the offer to head the education ministry. Then the scene changed when foreign donors demanded that we educate our children.

The education sector turned lucrative as billions began to flow in from abroad. Fabulous projects were designed and education became the fashion. This new interest in education was on two counts.

First, as one of the largest employers in the country this sector provided openings for jobs. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2008-09, the country has over 1.3 million teachers at all levels — an increase of 7.6 per cent per annum over the last decade. This is in addition to the substantial non-teaching staff in the administration. With the political advantage that control over jobs offers, the education sector is no more the Cinderella it once was.

Secondly, who doesn’t like money? Being awash in funds, the education sector offers perks, if not directly then indirectly, if not honestly then dishonestly. Stories of moneymaking ventures in education are legion.

In view of this sector’s dismal performance, one feels cynical about the talk of the massive injection of funds into it. This is one of the reasons why the National Education Policy (NEP) announced last week did not bring cheer. I am not anti-education. Nor am I against our measly education spending being increased to provide for the intellectual development of Pakistan’s youth. I worry about how this fund will be used.

According to the NEP, last year the government spent 2.5 per cent of GDP on education while 0.5 per cent came from the private sector. The Economic Survey puts the government’s spending at 2.1 per cent (Rs275.5bn). Hence eyebrows shot up when the NEP announced that by 2015 our education spending would be jacked up to seven per cent. Doubts have been expressed if this huge amount will really be made available. One should also ask whether the money will be put to good use or be siphoned off to line people’s pockets as is being done today.

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