Pakistan shuts down 8 Iran-sponsored unauthorised schools in Balochistan

One of the sealed Iran-sponsored illegal schools in Quetta. Image Credit: Quetta administration/Twitter

Islamabad: Pakistani authorities have closed down eight Iran-sponsored unauthorised schools in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province bordering Iran. The schools were established without official approval and were teaching Iranian curriculum to students, officials said.

Six schools were sealed last week and two more shut on June 14, said Quetta Assistant Commissioner Muhammad Zohaib-ul-Haq. The local authorities said the school management and teachers were Iranian nationals and they were teaching a foreign syllabus, which was “in violation” of the country’s law.

“Textbooks discovered contain only subjects pertaining to Iran’s history, geography and sociology [and] not Pakistan’s” the Balochistan official said in a tweet. The textbooks were written in the Persian language. The schools, located in Kirani road and Hazara town areas, were operating “illegally without registration” with the Balochistan education department, Zohaib said.

Shabbir Ahmed, monitoring and evaluation director of Balochistan Education Foundation (BEF), said that two more schools are being investigated for teaching a foreign curriculum and operating without official authorisation.

The institutions, including both primary and high schools enrolling hundreds of students, were established in 1991 under a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the provincial education department and the school administration. However, the school management failed to register with the provincial educational department during the last 30 years, Shabbir told local media.

Probe launched

The officials launched a probe when some of the teachers reportedly filed complaints on the chief minister’s online portal over salary issues. The investigation revealed the Iran-funded foreign schools which were neither affiliated with the Balochistan education department nor recognized by any Pakistan’s education board.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest but most sparsely populated province – home to 12.3 million people. The security issues, wide geographical spread, scattered communities, lack of school infrastructure (proper classrooms and access to usable toilets and clean water) and weak monitoring mechanism are some of the key challenges faced by the provincial education sector that resulted in ghost schools and the highest ratio of out-of-school children in the country.

Pakistani security forces are currently fencing borders with Afghanistan and Iran to secure the largely porous boundary. Around 40 per cent of the 928km border fencing has been completed at the Pakistan-Iran border, according to Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.