Earlier this month, the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child released a report titled, “The State of Pakistan’s Children Report 2011”, which stated that 25 million children in Pakistan are out of school — the second highest rate in the world — while seven million children have not even received primary schooling. Several dismal statistics appeared citing reasons why so many of Pakistan’s children are out of school, leading to the overall theme that a disturbed lifestyle negatively impacts school participation. Militant destruction continues to cause disturbance while minority children have the lowest enrolment rates due to security concerns. In 2010, ten Ahmadi students and one teacher were expelled from a school in Hafizabad because of their religious leanings. Children are also missing out on school due to a lack of teachers and learning materials or due to damaged buildings following natural disasters.
While one cannot blame parents for their apprehensions about sending children to school due to security reasons, they must realise the benefits of education — as should parents who send their children to work instead of to school. It should partially be the government’s responsibility to help poorer families obtain that education for their children and it should be strictly mandated. Parents must also be made aware about family planning based on socioeconomic capabilities as they must understand that a child’s education will cost money. However, education is the best gift they can give to enable their children to be self-reliant, think independently and make life decisions based on sound reasoning.
There is no doubt that Pakistan’s youth has talent, as we have seen in the past with Arfa Karim, Pakistan’s computer prodigy and Shadab Rasool Abro, a scientist in the making from Khairpur, who won a $250,000 US scholarship for his work on modern biochemical research. The reported statistics are not merely numbers; they are a breadth of wasted potential that could fuel Pakistan’s advancement from a developing country to a First World nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2012.
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