Education: Pathway towards better future | By Sophia Siddiqui

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Education: Pathway towards better future

JANUARY 24 is an important day in the calendar as international education day observed in Pakistan and countries around the world. First International Day of Education was celebrated in 24 January 2019, to remind that without inclusiveness and equitable quality learning for all, countries can not come out of challenges and poverty.

Undoubtedly, education is one of the most important and fundamental instruments to empower societies and lead them on the path to progress and prosperity. Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically emphasizes and highlights this importance of education. It says, “Everyone has the right to education.”

It is a said reality however is that according to UN, 57 million children remain out of school even today. It is a dismal situation as according to UDHR, education is not only a right, but a passport to human development that opens doors and expands opportunities and freedoms. Likewise, Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensuring Inclusive, Equitable, and Quality Education and the Promotion of Lifelong Learning Opportunities for All, recognizes several impediments for universal education and attempts to address them through targets to increase the number of scholarships to students in developing nations and create educational facilities that are gender sensitive and disability inclusive.

Likewise, the Constitution of Pakistan also signifies this importance under Article 25A to provide free and quality education to children between the ages of five to 16 to increase literacy and forge a better future for the country. However, it is a sad reality that about 22.8 million children (aged 5-16) in Pakistan remains, out of school which amounts to 44% of the population in this age group.

COVID-19 has also hampered the progress in the field of education. However, it is pertinent to not that the crisis has shown new opportunities such as online education and this potential needs to be fully exploited. Keeping the gap between the resources and real needs, the daunting task of taking education to every child could not be left alone to the government. Therefore, efforts at every level are need of the hour to promote education in the country.

In the pursuit of this vision of nation building through education, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) has been steering the wave of change for Pakistan’s educational sector for a long time now. This has been done through establishing Community Schools and since 2005, PPAF has been successfully establishing community schools in rural districts of Pakistan. a representative of PPAF told that more than 400 community schools as social enterprise were set up to cater to out-of-school children. PPAF provided financial and technical support to over 1,700 public schools and over 300,000 children studied in these community and public schools, of which 50% are girls and almost 50,000 students were previously out-of-school children.

Currently, PPAF is supporting 968 students, 292 of them, girls the fee for whom is directly paid to schools. The implementation of such innovative, technology driven, and cost-effective educational solutions has allowed PPAF to make access to education easier for the poor. The experts believe that more resources need to be diverted towards education, especially to introduce technology to promote quality education and make it accessible to children/students from underserved areas of Pakistan.

In the end, it not about the data I got from PPAF, other institutions, NGOs, civil society and educated people from all walks of life need to step up to put their contribution for enlightenment of education sector. Academic research should emphasize more focus on education, learning behaviours, social and industrial issues. We can’t negate that all those countries whose research, academia and science are linked to industry, developed rapidly and educated is the key to success.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

 

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