Education matters the most | By Nazakat Hussain

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Education matters the most

EDUCATION not only plays role in personal development, it has a very significant role in a country’s development.

No nation can rise to its glory without the jewel of education, which strengthens a country by playing role in poverty alleviation, capacity development, financial stability, employment opportunities, literacy rate etc.

Education sector is critical while making development plans for the country.Right to education is considered as the basic human right and there is a strong link between education and country’s development, be it social, economic or human development.

In the wider scenario, after Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) also lays huge importance on education.

SDG-4 is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

This SDG reaffirms the importance of education in a country’s development.As all countries, Pakistan has also given importance to education in its constitution.

On April 19th, 2010, the 18th Amendment to the constitution of Pakistan guaranteed Free and Compulsory Education to all 5 – 16 years old children as a fundamental right via Article 25-A but 12 years down the lane, we are still waiting for the notification of this in Punjab and at the Federal level.

Question is where do we stand now in terms of implementation.With 2.2 million out-of-school children (with girls being majority), how can the target achieved in absence of appropriate budgetary allocations and weak monitoring methods.

Concrete steps need to be taken to ensure provision of free education to all children, especially girls.

There is no doubt the future of our state can and must depend heavily on the kind of education we provide to our children and the manner in which we make them a future people from Pakistan – Muhammad Ali Jinnah , first conference on education in November 1947.

The biggest factor in this failure is not only provision of insufficient budget but also the effective use of budget.

National and provincial governments are required to allocate sufficient budget for implementation of Article 25-A.Budget is the most important pre requisite in achieving SDG-4.

The cumulative education expenditure by the federal and the provincial governments in fiscal year 2020 stood at 1.5 percent of the GDP which is even less than fiscal year 2019 (Economic Survey 2020–2021).

This number is self explanatory regarding situation of education in Pakistan.

The Gross Enrolment Rates (GER) at the primary level for the age group 6 – 10 years at the national level during 2019 – 20 declined to 84 percent as compared to 91 percent in 2014–15.

COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the education scenario very badly, thus more efforts need to be made and there is strong need for allocation of a bigger chunk to education in the upcoming budget.

After constitutional amendment no.

18, school education is delegated to the provinces as the first step for the implementation of Article 25-A.

Provinces are awarded with increased funds through NFC and they also generate their revenue through different taxes.Provinces plan and approve their own budgets.

Provincial governments and assemblies should now allocate bigger amount for the education sector and should also delegate powers and finances to district level with efficient monitoring systems.

Besides budget there is also the need of certain incentives for promoting enrolment and retention of students.

Monetary problems and resources is one of the biggest hurdles which is keeping children away from attending schools.

They are forced to earn money and contribute to family’s income rather than attending school.

There is a need for some incentives at school level such as free food (mid-day meals, which are also promised in Free and Compulsory Education Acts), stipend etc.

There is also strong need to build more schools as distance is inversely proportional to attendance in schools.

Biggest hurdle in girls education is the conservative mindset of people, special attention needs to be paid to change the mindset of people and in this effort religious leaders, influential personalities and elders can play a fruitful role.

Besides this, there are many other factors which serve as big barriers such as absence of toilets, lack of infrastructure, untrained teachers, no boundaries, lack of awareness, lack of science labs, canteens, school grounds etc.

Policy makers should highlight all these aspects for implementers. If we look at the statistics, according to the National Education Statistics 2017-18, only 27% Middle, 39% High and 33% higher Secondary Government schools exists in Punjab and on the other hand, there are more middle, high and higher secondary private schools and colleges in Punjab that shows the less interest of government investment in education.

According to Pakistan Bureau of statistics (PSLM 2019-20), 16% urban while 28% rural children of Punjab are still out-of-school whereas percentage of out-of-school children is the highest in Rajanpur with 48 percent.

According to Pakistan Standard and Living Measurement Survey 2019-2020, the total population of 5-16 years old children in Punjab is 31,991,082, whereas, 24 percent of this population is reported out of school.

This amounts to a total of 7,690,526 (7.69 million) children unable to go to school in Punjab.

According to the PSLM 2019-2020, in Punjab, girls constitute the majority of out-of-school children (OOSC) population in 22 of the 36 districts.

District Rajanpur has the highest rate of OOSC in Punjab at 48 per cent, followed by district Muzaffargarh at 43 per cent.

Thus, it is urged that, the Federal Capital and Punjab government should play active role to immediately notify Free and Compulsory Education Acts to ensure utilization of allocated budget and improve the state of education in the country.

Among various stakeholders Ministry of Human Rights and media should serve as an efficient watchdog on the activities of government and civil society organizations in the field of education since education is the basic human right and no one should be denied of this right.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

 

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