Education is under attack in Pakistan. Not just from the terrorists who continue to target centres of learning based on misguided principles of piety. Education has been under attack in Pakistan for a long time in a determined and systematic manner. Lack of coherent policies and funds, and consistent apathy from successive governments have turned education into a privilege for some, rather than the basic right of all. Anyone doubting the veracity of this claim has to look no further than the figures presented in the Pakistan Education Statistics 2014-15 report.
There are more than 24 million children out of school in Pakistan. That is more people than the entire population of some countries. The number represents almost half of all school-age children in Pakistan. As ever, there are gender-based and geographical disparities. There are more girls out of school than boys. The highest number of out-of-school children is in Balochistan followed by Fata. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa fares better than other provinces but there too 36 per cent of school-age children are counted amongst out-of-school children. The statistics only get worse. Between 30 per cent to 40 per cent of schools are without basic facilities like electricity, water, bathrooms and boundary walls. They only have a single classroom and the state of many school buildings are deemed “unsatisfactory”.
In short, the only good thing about this report is that it exists, which means that some attention is being paid at last to what can only be termed a shameful state of affairs. If Pakistan wishes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN and adopted by the National Assembly only recently, something must be done regarding our education system and fast. According to the Minister of State for Education, Balighur Rehman, the government is committed to making positive changes and is already making efforts to achieve excellence in education. Given our present predicament, it will be a long and arduous road, requiring genuine commitment as well as generous budgetary allocations to achieve even mediocrity in education. It is hoped that this report will prove to be the first step of that journey.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2016.