Pakistan is among those developing countries that are struggling to provide basic necessities to their citizens, education being one of them. With half of the country living below the poverty line, it is difficult for the less affluent to eke out a modest living. Education is, therefore, a privilege not everyone can afford given the dilapidated condition of state-run schools and the prevailing issue of ghost teachers.
Though actions have been recently taken to overcome the education crises, the question remains as to whether the efficiency shown would be a persistent strategy or an outcome of a temporary reaction. With the Sindh government’s recent outburst of suspending 1,841 ghost employees working in the education department of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), policies seem to have taken a positive turn with an expected favourable trickle-down effect.
These suspended/downsized employees, ranging from grade 1 to 17, have been costing the government up to a staggering Rs600 million, an amount which if proficiently invested in the future of Pakistan would reap a refined generation. The state of education being in shambles is often attributed to incompetent government policies, ghost employees and disorganised fund disbursements that render the poor uneducated. This strata of society then resorts to blue-collar jobs, becoming manual labour, which seems to be their only option.
Pakistan’s aggregate literacy rate – though seemingly overstated – is 60 percent, and constitutes those also who can only pen down a mere signature. Unfortunately only 26 percent girls are educated. Education experts, however, tend to disagree with these figures and present a rather dreary literacy rate which according to them is 26 percent. Also, as per their findings, only 12 percent girls are literate. Furthermore, the situation in rural areas is more distressing where female literacy is calculated between three and eight percent, especially in the provinces, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa, where girls are not allowed to be educated based on dubious religious grounds.
It should, therefore, come as no surprise that Pakistan has one of the world’s lowest enrolment rates and is thus ranked 132nd out of 144 countries according to the World Economic Forum. This is no doubt an alarming situation considering that almost a quarter of children in Pakistan do not go to school. Moreover, in terms of the Human Development Index, the country ranks 146 out of 187 countries.
Education alone can uplift the country to a respectable position at a global level. It is a pity that only five percent of Pakistanis make it to degree-level education. For this reason the need for making the facilities of primary education is even more important. According to the 18th Amendment, the federal government had defined the role of provinces in making education easily accessible for all. However, a lot needs to be done when it comes to getting children not only enrolled in schools but also taught by consistent and competent teachers.
Annually, a meagre amount from the budget gets allotted to the education sector. This is one of the lowest allocations for education in the world and an unfortunate reality for the nation. However, the key in getting people educated lies in the fair and efficient utilisation of funds and resources. This financial year the government of Sindh has allotted more than Rs100 billion for the education sector alone in order to serve four million students in public institutes. However, these funds are not just limited to them but also to deserving students studying in private institutes.
The Sindh Endowment Fund is one such allotment of scholarship money that aims to help financially less privileged and meritorious students seeking higher education. The disciplines being served are Engineering, Medicine, IT, and Business Administration. Similarly, private universities have their own criteria for need-based and merit-based scholarships in order to encourage deserving and talented students acquire education.
For example, Habib University’s merit scholarships are awarded looking at the applicant’s demonstrated financial need as well as his/her achievements based on which 10 percent to 80 percent tuition costs are covered.
Enabling students acquire scholarships not only narrows the higher education gap for a developing country like Pakistan but also encourages them to achieve their goals irrespective of the household income level. Moreover, scholarships decrease the amount of loans needed for students to complete their studies while also eliminating the need to work during their regular semesters, as hectic work hours are often an impediment in the academic success. This accounts for a trickle-down effect in terms of philanthropy as these very students – when financially capable – are able to give back to the society from which they once benefitted.
As long as private and public educational institutes keep thriving on the basis of providing quality education for all irrespective, the future of this sector will not be as bleak as it seems today. With equal support from the government, in terms of devising education friendly policies rather than taxing education, the nation will have a prosperous future awaiting its younger generation.
The writer is a freelance contributor.
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