Education- Scarce and still not available to all in Pakistan

by tybmmjourno

“Education is a matter of life and death for Pakistan.”- Mohammad Ali Jinnah’

Pakistan is one of the countries that made quite an attempt to meet if not all at least some Millennium Development Goals. As per the 2012 report launched by UN Secretary- General Ban Ki- Moon, Pakistan has met three important targets on Poverty, Slums and Water, three years ahead  of 2015. But in certain targets they are terribly lagging behind. With the recent Malala incident we all were very well made aware of the situation on education in Pakistan. After Malala, a Pakistani school pupil and education activist was shot by Taliban gunmen in the head. There was quite a furore regarding this and the issue of education was taken up as a serious matter that needed to be paid attention to. But still there has not been much of a change.

Education is accepted as a basic right of everyone both at national and international level. The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 clearly lays down the provision in Article 37 (b) that:

“The state of Pakistan shall… remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period”.

Pakistan has 25 million out of school children and spends less than 2% on its GDP on Education. Education is a fragmenting infrastructure for which a good budget is required, sadly, the budget is constantly shrinking. The government had recognised this problem early and has been working hard on it especially with their major partners (British Government) to improve their situation. Most of the investment goes in teacher training, infrastructures, providing textbooks and other materials, etc.

In Islamabad (Pakistan’s capital), children gather at a small playground, not to play but to study. Every evening for three hours, free classes are held for anyone who wants attend. Mohammad Ayub, began teaching children whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to school in 1988. Such primary schools are state-run, do not charge fees and many provide free textbooks, stationeries, uniforms, conveyance, etc. and rely on volunteers and donations. The school is one of dozens of informal institutions in the capital which are helping to educate children. Many who have finished Ayub’s informal school have gone ahead and completed high school and college and have jobs that they could not have ever dreamed of. As per his estimation 20 percent of the students finish grade 10, with around 10 percent going on to complete degrees at colleges.

Despite making education a fundamental constitutional right in 2010, Pakistan seems to have a bleak chance of fulfilling its Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal education by 2015. Over seven million primary-aged children do not attend school, according to a 2011 report by the Pakistan Education Task Force (PETF), a body which includes senior education officials and independent experts. Millions of children are still missing out on schooling altogether in what the governments of Pakistan and the United Kingdom have termed an “education emergency.” In 2010, The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that 30 percent of Pakistan’s population lives in a state of “extreme educational poverty”.

With politics and terrorism being involved with education many are scared to take up the responsibility to teach. Private schools are preferred by most parents because of thee quality education but they are expensive. Those who cannot afford it opt for the state-run ones. Government schoolteachers are paid quite an amount for teaching and protected by political connections and Unions. The issue is clearly of governance. According to Ayub, the problem is not the lack of resources but it is the will to improve the situation that is missing.  Experts agree that by throwing money at the situation the problem will not be solved. The government needs to take a stand and do much more.

Pakistan has not made much progress in improving the quality and reach of its education system. With all the political connections and Unions that are there, not much can be done. Malala is one of the few fighting for universal education, but what about the rest? Its high time Pakistan wakes up and makes this a target to reach not for the MDG, but for the betterment of Pakistan!

Alice Peter