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The Death of Merit in the Educational System of Balochistan

The ancient Greek word Méros’ (Merit)means asset or qualification. In terms of education, merit can be defined as ‘worthiness or excellence’. Merit, particularly in the education sector, not only defines a society but also strengthens the socioeconomic or sociopolitical structure of any society. However, in the educational system of Balochistan, merit seems to be proportionately missing. Therefore, the province is still deprived of excellence and quality in every sector. Also, merit is not only violated in terms of fake degrees and paid cheating but it has also allowed undeserving people to possess responsible positions which resultantly leads to corruption, and the political and tribal influenced employment of professors/teachers. Due to this, economic inequalities are expanding; the gap between the poor and rich is widening and, regrettably, the hope for a better future is becoming blurred for the youth in particular.

Article 25A of the constitution endorses free education for all children aged from 5 to 16. However, instead of its implementation, the existing education system has become vulnerable because of the compromise on merit, the absence of which is decreasing the public’s trust in institutions. There are implementable models for checks and balances. However, in Balochistan, political and tribal influence are so entrenched that even remedies are not put into practice. It is crucial to understand how the province's violation of merit is affecting its socioeconomic structure. Therefore, this opinion piece aims to illustrate the impact of the violation of merit and the political elite’s role in strengthening favouritism and nepotism at the cost of competency in the province's educational system. Such an approach ultimately results in lowering the standard of education in the province.

First, the province’s education governance has been damaged by both internal flaws and an external political context that offers little support and a lot of destructive intervention in administrative decisions. In Balochistan, largely, teachers are hired based on their political or tribal allegiance. Even the former Chief Minister, Jam Kamal Khan Alyani asserted that the positions were being sold, claiming, that the government departments sell seats, ranging from 1.5 million to 4 million rupees depending on the scale of the job. Another instance is that a case was filed by Muhamad Asif Jan and other petitioners in the High Court, challenging the legality of the appointed people in the education institutions. They also made several objections regarding irregularities and improprieties that point to corruption, nepotism, and favouritism.

Not only this but also, the merit system has been badly affected by the tribal and political elite. Jobs are provided in violation of merit, depriving deserving people of such opportunities. This dominating behavior is used to make people more and more dependent on the elite, as those employed in this way are often obligated to repay the favours by crossing legal boundaries.

Another example of political backlash against a university in Balochistan came to light when an instructor was appointed on the basis of her affiliation with the provincial minister, leading to her promotion from a scale of 17 to 19 overnight. This case involved mismanagement, corruption, and substantial political involvement. Empirically, these reasons seem to be the drivers of underlying factors for the low literacy rate and substandard education in Balochistan. Therefore, it can be said that the employment structure is exposed to such corruption, substantial political involvement, and mismanagement that it is resulting in an education crisis in the province.

Second, political and tribal influences are causing havoc in primary, secondary and higher education. While, theoretically, the literacy rate in Balochistan is less than 43.58 %, in terms of progressive human capital, literate, operative and efficient people hardly make-up about 10 % of the population. In that way, 43.58 %, not only comprises of intelligent and progressive people but also those who have earned degrees by bribing. For instance, a corruption case of Rs. 60 million was registered in the BA and B.Sc. exams alone, further demonstrating how the exams are rigged in favour of those with connections and money to bribe.

In Balochistan, it is impossible to ignore the lack of merit at administrative levels, the lack of availability of teachers, and the low standard of education. The ghost schools and teachers who are paid about 400-500 million rupees without carrying out their duties violates merit. As a result, the budget, which is split between 10 % for school maintenance and 90 % for the salaries of the teaching and admin staff, goes to such ghost teachers, creating strain on the provincial economy. However, it was discovered during the verification drive that hardly more than 42,000 of the 58,000 registered teachers were present in the classrooms; even the Ex-Balochistan Education Minister, Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal, did not deny this data.   

On the other hand, due to this political influence in the institutes, people are not only facing economic but also psychological repercussions. For instance, Sakiba Hakeem, who was a student of intermediate in Government Girls Degree College, Muslim Bagh, committed suicide when the principal of the college refused to send her application form for the Intermediate examinations, countering her active participation in the protests against political elite. Resultantly, such practices lead to social deformity, adding more problems in society. This is only an instance of a registered case; the number of unregistered cases of such nature causing psychological issues is far greater, and frustration is visible among youth.

To summarize, it is empirically proven that power is being abused in the province that is already struggling in education. Therefore, employment, education, hope, and chances for a better future in the province are in jeopardy. To avoid further deterioration and violations of merit, the model given by Raza Shah Pehalwi of Iran to enhance the accountability of the departments can be applied here as well for effective checks and balances. The province’s administration should have accountable platforms for checks and balances to prevent political and tribal influence over educational institutes in order to build a hopeful and dependable atmosphere for Balochistan's youth and meritorious teachers.  

Moreover, professionals should be selected through proper procedures. The recruitments of bureaucrats through CSS examination can be taken as a model; even though hardly 2 to 3 % pass the examination every year, it is a trusted mechanism to get the right person for the right job. Together with checks and balances, more funding should be allocated for education, particularly for research. Finally, ghost teachers should be sent home without perks and privileges and ghost schools should either become operational or be closed entirely to manage the budgetary deficit due to them.