Ghost schools of Balochistan

Ali Jan Maqsood

Ghost schools in Balochistan have been written about at great length. But what about the schools which have teachers but who could be described as ghosts?
According to AQ Peer, a student of a high school in village Hirronk, his teacher T. Ali enters the class with his cell phone in hand. Fifteen minutes go by. Then he sits down and starts a short conversation with one student. His mobile phone rings and he goes outside to attend it. He comes back after five minutes and says: “Ady mai deek be mara nelet. Bare yak gappe Kant. Bachaka soor makane, na ke shuma bazzag bay.” Deek is an informal word in Balochi which is used to replace ‘wife’ (My wife doesn’t let me. Every day she says do this, do that. Boys, I suggest you never marry in life.) With these words barely out of his mouth, his cell phone rang again and this time he didn’t come back to class because the bell rang.

Is this what students get up for so early in the morning? Should teachers be discussing this kind of personal stuff with students? Is it the place of a teacher to use such informal language for his own wife? And they wonder why large number of students quit their studies and look for jobs as garage mechanic, drivers.
One of my classmates, Adil Ali, hails from a rural area. He told me about the state of affairs in his village Khairabad. Classes are built without any appointment of teachers. When they are promoted to class 9 they still don’t know anything about Science and Arts. They were put in an Arts programme without any career counselling about their future.

I met him for the first time in college when he told me that he wanted to become an engineer but thought that engineering was available in every field of education. By the time he understood the system it was too late to make the right choice. Now he is studying Political Science and cursing the educational system of Khairabad.
In Turbat, each year more than 2,000 students arrive from the surrounding countryside to continue their studies. We have no colleges or universities in the rural areas. While they come to the city, their concept of educational institutions is that they are the same as what they have seen in the villages. “There is no reason to attend class. We will bunk and do self-study. Teachers are lazy, they don’t teach well. They only take salaries.”

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Sanaullah Samad, one of my closest colleagues in DELTA, an institute of English, is a resident of village Shapuk. He migrated to Turbat city three years ago with a little brother and three sisters. “It has been three and a half years that the teachers of the high school in Shapuk have stopped showing up on time and the students of the village just come and go every day without gaining anything.” The weak educational system is creating more and more illiterate people and not all of them can afford to educate their children in Turbat city. “I have published more than 100 letters in different newspapers in order to highlight the issue to the higher-ups but no action has been taken yet.”

Take the example of Balgatar, a village that is located between Turbat and Panjgor districts. It doesn’t have electricity. There is one high school where daily classes are held but the students cheat in exams. Mehr Ali, a cousin of mine, is domiciled there. He has passed his Matric exam. During the exams, he was present in Turbat city! In order to confirm, I asked him and he replied: “There is no checking of fake students. Just go and give the paper anytime you want.”
“Don’t you get fail?”
“Failing in Balochistan? Don’t joke man.”

Kassak village is nearly 30 km away from Turbat. The village has only one high school in name. The school has three teachers with three classes which are broken down. Interviewing a colleague in Kassak, Shakeel Phullan, I came to know that the teachers don’t attend classes on a regular basis and students often cricket in school. “The school was donated by a local leader, Zahoor Ahmed Buledai on behalf of the Balochistan government but the authorities are not giving responses to the schools.” Some of the passionate students of Kassak go to Jussak high school which is 15 km away.

Kallag village perhaps tops the list; nearly  90% of its residents are unaware of the benefits of education. Young children are married at the ages of 12 to 15 and told to work in the farms or as labour. One of my friends in Kallag, Hafeezullah, survived by moving to Turbat city for an education. He was forced by his parents to marry at 14 years. He refused and settled in Turbat where he is a part-time teacher in an English institution. “My parents scolded me and said that they were not going to arrange my wedding at their own cost.”

The writer is a second year Arts student at Atta Shad Degree College, Turbat

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