Written By: Usman Ansari
Concepts of ‘generational improvement’ and social mobility essentially outline how successive generations should aim for better life than their predecessors with improved living standards and status, are heavily tied to access to good quality education. Furthermore, should a good quality education be unobtainable due to lack of financial resources and/or lack of suitable educational facilities, the lower class of society finds itself permanently locked in a cycle of poverty. These factors may exist due to various reasons all over Pakistan, but are especially pronounced in Balochistan that has suffered sustained lack of opportunities if compared to other provinces. For a number of reasons literacy rate is extremely low in Balochistan.
Pakistan Navy is fully aware of this situation in Balochistan being an established military force across the entire coastal area in Balochistan. PN has therefore, expended considerable effort to improve educational facilities and prospects for the Baloch youth in the coastal areas and has improved recruitment opportunities for the young Baloch students to have a successful career in Pakistan Navy. Pakistan Navy also runs education facilities that provide both free education and has reserved seats in these institutions for the local students. These institutions not only serve the immediate and long term aspirations of the local communities to achieve an element of generational/social mobility but bring them into the mainstream of Pakistani society as well as increasing the Pakistan Navy’s talent pool from which to potentially draw recruits.
One of Pakistan Navy’s flagship educational projects is Cadet College Ormara (CCO). CCO is a major educational facility in Balochistan in support of federal government initiatives to improve education in the province, and is providing education from Class VIII to HSSC level. CCO facilities include full range of academic, accommodation, administrative, and recreational (including a swimming pool), and prayer facilities amongst others to support the full range of educational and extracurricular needs of students. CCO is undoubtedly a standout education facility as four batches of 60 cadets made up the initial intake, making the present number of students approximately 260. Perhaps more important than the facilities themselves; however, are the efforts to widen access to CCO to all levels of local society in which fifty percent of seats are reserved for the Baloch students who are provided free education as well. Of the current student intake, 109 cadets at CCO are the local Baloch students.
The inclusion of cadets in CCO’s intake is notable as the scheme has been revived exclusively for Baloch candidates in which all expenditures, i.e., education, boarding/lodging, messing, and others are borne by government of Pakistan. Under the scheme 25 Baloch candidates will be selected each year to undergo studies from Class VIII to HSSC. Should they complete this course of study and get recommended by the ISSB, they will then be cleared to join Pakistan Naval Academy as PN cadets. This gives them the opportunity to not only have good education, but the opportunity for a career as well, something perhaps equally important in a region where employment opportunities to suit a higher level of education are limited. Additionally, it is ensured that the scheme is available to students from humble backgrounds who otherwise are unable to avail such opportunities.
These schemes will be indispensible in setting up local students with a chance to have successful careers. However, there is no escaping the fact that a sound primary education is the key giving children the initial chance to make the best of their abilities. Unfortunately due to financial constraints, Montessori level education is beyond the reach of many parents who also struggle to provide their children with a primary level education. To overcome this constraint, the Bahria Foundation has established subsidised educational facilities to provide students with the firm foundation from where they may progress, starting from Montessori level. These include Bahria Model College Ormara (BMCO), Bahria Model School Gwadar (BMSG), Bahria Model School Jiwani (BMSJ), and Bahria Model School Turbat (BMST). It is worth looking at these schools individually as they have been established recently.
BMCO was established in 2004 to offer classes from Montessori as a primary school, but has since become a college offering classes to HSSC and is affiliated with the Quetta Board. Of the current 650 students, 500 are local Baloch students, which indicates that BMCO is one of the main educational facilities in Ormara. Pakistan Navy is further supporting the BMCO by providing pick and drop facilities for students and staff besides providing staff and financing the running of BMCO. Bahria Model School Gwadar (BMSG) runs classes from Montessori to Class IX, and was established in 2010 to provide subsidised education to local Baloch children. 417 students currently registered at the school are entirely locals, with the eventual aim to increase this to 1,000 when the new school building currently under construction is completed. This will also allow provision of education up to intermediate level. New building will feature a library, science laboratory, plus indoor and outdoor sports facilities. Not only will BMSG evolve into a standout educational facility for the port and surrounding region, but is also set to become a significant employer in Gwadar. Running costs of the school are presently being met by grant from Pakistan Navy though students also pay a nominal fee.
Towards the western coast at Jiwani, Bahria Model School Jiwani (BMSJ) was established in 2012 where students from Montessori to Class IV are allowed addmissions. All the 163 students presently enrolled at the school are locals, and its running cost plus salaries are being met by Pakistan Navy. The newest of Pakistan Navy run educational facilities is Bahria Model School Turbat (BMST) that was established in 2015 to provide education from Montessori to Class III for the 159 students presently enrolled. The school building is being constructed in phases with ten classrooms and associated facilities presently available, but will eventually be expanded to offer college level education.
Considering the small population of the towns in which the above schools have been established, (with only Gwadar and Turbat approaching anywhere near 100,000 residents, and the others far fewer), they offer an important avenue for the long term advancement of the local population over and above the existing educational facilities already present. Certainly in the smaller towns, such as Jiwani and Ormara, the schools established by Pakistan Navy are the only quality educational facilities making them all the more important. Considering Ormara is Pakistan Navy’s operational base it stands to reason that much of its development efforts are focused there. Therefore, Pakistan Navy has also endeavoured to support existing schools at Ormara City. These include the Government Boys High School Ormara, Government Girls High School Ormara, and Government Middle School for Boys Ormara – Pakistan Navy is providing assistance such as furniture, stationery, teachers and maintenance of the school buildings. Additionally, a serving naval officer (a Lieutenant or Lieutenant Commander), is also appointed as the principal of Government High School Ormara. Children from the coastal strip in Balochistan are also the beneficiaries of the Chief of Naval Staff 'Sponsor a Child Scheme' whereby students from humble backgrounds can be sponsored to allow them to benefit from free education at Bahria Model Schools, and some may also be eligible for provision of books, stationery, uniform, and shoes. 129 students are currently benefiting from this generous scheme. Not all efforts are restricted to the coastal strip however, a scheme is in place to reserve two seats for Baloch students and one from Dera Bugti at the prestigious Cadet College Petaro (CCP) in Sindh.
Efforts to increase the educational opportunities for Baloch students are not just confined to Balochistan. Having been the main focus of naval activity since independence, Karachi has by far used the most naval facilities, and this also includes Bahria Model Schools. To take advantage of these educational facilities, and avail them for the use of Baloch students, a scheme has been put in place to provide free (fully funded) education. Pakistan Navy meets all boarding/lodging, and educational costs to 10 Baloch students per year in Karachi from Class VIII to HSSC. Presently there are 30 students that are benefiting from the scheme, and upon completion of their studies they will have the opportunity to join Pakistan Navy. In recognition of the need to nurture the talents of local Baloch students to their fullest and allow them to reach their full potential, access to higher education has also been taken care of through reservation of places in Bahria University. One place each has been reserved in the MBA and BBA programmes at the university’s Karachi campus. Those selected for these places are spared tuition and associated fee. Furthermore, one place each is reserved in the MBBS and BDS Departments at Bahria University Medical & Dental College. As a service to the nation at large, its efforts to support education in Balochistan are an excellent example of Pakistan Navy serving the nation at land as well as sea.