In the rural areas of all the provinces more than half of children do not go to schools for various reasons that range from the unwillingness of their parents, non-availability of government schools, lack of proper institutional infrastructure to forced child labour
Educated and productive workforce, and manpower are considered to be the most significant assets a nation can have in the modern era. All developed nations have this common trait behind their advancement: they highly value their human resource and try to utilise its maximum potential for growth. When we compare ourselves with them we are nowhere with regards to the literacy rate and public sector spending on education, which has been one of the key hindrances holding back our growth. The Pakistan economic survey of the last few years reveals startling facts about the relationship between government spending on this sector and the literacy rate. In 2005-2006, the expenditure percentage of the GDP was 2.2 with the literacy rate at 54 percent, in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, it was 2.4 percent with the literacy rate at 55 percent and 56 percent respectively, in 2008-2009, it was 2.1 percent with the literacy rate 57 percent, in 2009-2010, it was two percent with the literacy rate at 57.7 percent, in 2010-2011, it was 1.7 percent with the literacy rate at 58 percent, and in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, it was just two percent with the literacy rate at 58 percent and 60 percent respectively.
The data clearly shows a very minute percentage of spending is done on education, which has eventually resulted in a stagnant literacy rate. Since most of our population still lives in rural areas that is why the government’s support is indispensable in convincing parents to send their children to schools and colleges as it cannot afford the expenses that will eventually result in a non-productive and unskilled workforce, leading to many socio-economic problems. Statistics reveal that in the rural areas of all the provinces more than half of children do not go to schools for various reasons that range from the unwillingness of their parents, non-availability of government schools, lack of proper institutional infrastructure, forced child labour and strong traditions and beliefs that regard education as a modern tool.
One recent survey indicates that more than half of government schools in Balochistan have a single teacher managing and taking care of the whole institution. The provincial government recognises this pathetic situation claiming that it is short of funds to finance this sector despite the recent increase in allocation for the education sector. How can we assume to bring about a revolution in our lives when almost half of our population does not even know who to elect and how to plan the future of the nation? Although government planning documents forecast the literacy rate to rise to 90 percent by the end of 2025, the current state of affairs presents a sorry tale for the whole nation. When we compare such statistics with regional countries we come to know that most of them spend a greater percentage of their GDP on education and get a consequent higher literacy rate. In India, percentage spending is 3.1 percent with literacy at 73.8 percent, in Bangladesh, it is 2.4 percent with literacy at 59.8 percent, in Bhutan, it is 4.8 percent with literacy at 52 percent, in Iran, it is 4.7 percent with literacy at 85 percent, In Maldives, it is 11.2 percent with literacy at 99 percent, in Nepal, it is 4.6 percent with literacy at 66 percent and in Sri Lanka, it is 2.6 percent with literacy at 91.2 percent.
It is clear from these figures that we have the lowest percentage spending from all these South Asian countries while our literacy rate is just above that of Bangladesh and Bhutan. These figures represent a very sorry state for us; nobody else is responsible for this crisis like situation except us. Although UNESCO has given us the target to increase this spending to four percent by 2018, there are no signs of such an increment in the near future as every government keeps it very low on its priority list. All other expenditures are done foregoing the objective of social development.
The state of government schools, colleges and universities clearly endorses the pathetic situation of this whole sector. Negligence, nepotism, political interference and, most importantly, the unavailability of desired funds are clearly responsible for this dire state. The recent report by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) reveals that the country is facing an acute shortage of PhDs. It also indicates that no Pakistani university is included in the top 500 universities of the world. Amongst the 300 top universities of Asia we have only 10 universities. The initiative of adding to our PhDs cannot be left to the private sector as it is largely interested in merely pursuing profits rather than adding to any socio-economic development of the country.
It is hoped that the present government will take some initiative in this regard to give this sector its desired worth in planning. It is the only path to progress and to root out the terrorism and dark values of feudalism that have held back our growth over several decades. The Private sector and NGOs can also contribute in this regard by visiting rural areas to increase awareness, which will be the best social service they can offer. Of course, the government’s initiative is key to making a significant impact on this count. The human resource of any country is one of its key drivers to stimulate growth and productivity, and with a very large proportion of the young population we can utilise this hidden potential if we change our priorities from non-development to development expenditures.
The writer is a freelance columnist