PESHAWAR: Despite tall claims of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led provincial government to improve education in the region with massive enrollment campaigns launched every year, the number of out-of-school children in the province increased in 2016.
The Annual Status of Education Report ASER-Pakistan 2016, published earlier in August this year, said that 86 per cent of all school-aged children, between six to16 years-of-age, were enrolled in schools across the province.
Of these, 73 per cent of children were enrolled in government schools, while 27 per cent were attending non-state institutions including 26 per cent in private schools and one per cent attending madrassas.
Of those studying in government schools, 38 per cent were girls and 62 per cent were boys. The figures were similar for private schools where 63 per cent of enrolled children were boys and 37 per cent were girls.
The ASER 2016 survey was conducted in 25 rural districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) which covered 13,807 households in 704 villages throughout the province.
Over the past year, it noted that the overall number of out-of-school children in the province had increased by a percentage point.
The report showed that in 2015 there were 13 per cent of children who were not in school. This figure, the report showed, had increased to around 14 per cent in 2016.
According to the report, nine per cent of children have never enrolled in a school while a further five per cent have dropped out of different schools of the province for various reasons.
Child Rights Activist Imran Takkar believes that corporal punishment is one of the leading causes forcing children out of schools. He said that a 2005 study by the UNICEF and Save the Children had identified 28 different types of punishment which were handed out to children at home. By comparison, 43 different types of punishment had been identified at schools.
Takkar explained that corporal punishment has a negative impact on a child’s psychology and personality.
“A harsh punitive environment is destructive to the growth and learning of any child,” he said, adding that it could force children to run away from schools or to drop out.
Pakistan, he said, has the second largest drop out rate in the world and the probability of corporal punishment playing a role in that ratio cannot be ruled out.
He recommended that there must be a commitment to promoting nonviolent forms of child-rearing and education.
Takkar urged the K-P government to take steps to introduce an anti-corporal punishment legislation the best interests of children.
He also suggested that teachers should be trained on not resorting to violent means to either control or discipline a child — and that the teachers should be educated about the negative impacts of striking a child.
Govt taking multiple steps
K-P Elementary and Secondary Education Minister Atif Khan, when asked about the increase in the number of out-of-school children in the province, said he was not aware of the ASER report nor was he aware of the methods adopted to collect the data.
The education minister highlighted the steps taken by the government to increase school enrollment and to bring all out-of-school children back into classrooms, including a Rs20 billion for installing missing facilities in government schools.
Recently, he said, they had started a second shift of classes where students are being encouraged to partake. The girls have been provided vouchers for travelling to and from schools while the boys have been provided with bicycles.
Reiterating how his government was focused is on girl’s education, Atif said that 70 per cent of new schools being built in the province will specially cater to girls.
Asked about corporal punishment, the minister said this was not the reason the parents told them for pulling their girls out of schools. “People everywhere demanded that schools should have facilities for their children,” Atif said matter-of-factly. He added that more people were now aware of the importance of educating girls.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2017.