LAHORE: Pakistan is said to have a total of 5.1 million children out of school, making it the nation with second highest out-of-school children in the world, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2012 stated.
However, Director UNESCO in Pakistan Dr Kozue Kay Nagata believes that despite the country reflecting some of the worst education indicators in the world, there is some progress – albeit on a slow pace.
Speaking at the provincial launch of the report on Wednesday, Dr Nagata insisted that it is time for Pakistan to combat the challenges in the education sector and said that there is room for progress.
The report states that female literacy between the ages of 15 to 24 stands at 61 per cent while male literacy rate stand at 79 per cent. However, according to a projection for the year 2015, the youth female literacy is expected to reach 72 per cent while adult female literacy rate is expected to reach 47 per cent.
According to Dr Nagata this points towards the empowerment of young Pakistani females. In the near future, they will be more educated than their mothers – which is promising for the nation.
According to the report, Pakistan allocates 2.3 per cent of its budget for education, which is 0.3 per cent lesser than what was allocated in 1999. The country currently stands on 113 amongst a total of 120 countries on the Education Development Index.
Furthermore, Pakistan has a total of 5.1 million children out of school, the second highest in the world.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Dr Nagata offered pathways to recovery. She said that Pakistan needs to develop a strong legal framework in order to ensure provision of education.
With work under way in Punjab to provide legislation on Article 25-A of the Constitution – which speaks of free and compulsory education to all in the five to 16 years-of-age bracket – Nagata says it is time for all provinces to take the lead in implementing this legislation.
Dismal outlook for female students
According to the report, two thirds of the out-of-school children in the country are females, the number being close to over 3 million, making Pakistan the third largest in the world with out-of-school female students.
Dr Nagata said that public awareness is the need of hour. She pressed for efforts to make people aware about the value of education.
“There is a negative attitude among people about education especially education for girls,” she said.
The UNESCO director urged need for evidence creation, in the form of reports and analytical work for facilitating policy formulation by the government. “Evidence creation is necessary for planners to formulate relevant strategies to address challenges,” she said.
Dr Nagata opines that public-private partnerships can also create sustainable options for educational progress and such projects can be initiated by replicating pilot projects started by international agencies like the UNESCO.
Also speaking at the launch, advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Zakia Shahnawaz said Pakistan could no longer afford to deprive its citizens of education, health and even livelihood and earning skills.
Rs. 2.3 billion has been approved for educating illiterate adults and children in the province, according to Nadeem Alam, Additional Secretary of the Literacy and Non Formal Basic Education department.
At the gathering, Alam said that since the establishment of the department in 2002, which is one of a kind in the entire country, it has educated almost 800, 000 adults and children in the province.
Deputy Secretary at the School Education department, Qaiser Rasheed though denied the claims about government spending included in the report. He contended that only in the Punjab, as much as Rs285 million of the provincial budget was being spent on education. He also said there were 9.54 million out-of-school children in the 5 to 16 age bracket while 4.4 million in the 5 to 9 age bracket in Punjab.
In the wake of Malala
The report, which comes in the wake of the attack on Malala Yousafzai, pointed towards a statistic which reports that 1 in 3 girls in Swat district go to school.
Speakers at the launch acknowledged Yousafzai’s activism for the right to female education. The director general UNESCO also paid a tribute to the fifteen-year-old’s efforts for education.