Thirty per cent of Pakistani children cannot attend school due to nutritional deficiencies, according to a survey conducted by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
According to the national nutritional survey that studies data over the past six months, an increased number of children are dropping out of school due to malnourishment. The data indicates that calorie intake, which is required to be 2,000 kilocalories, has decreased to 1,600 kcal.
“For the past three years, the situation in Pakistan has been deteriorating and the environment is very difficult,” WFP Country Director Wolfgang Herbinger told participants at a seminar organised by the WFP in Islamabad on Thursday. “This is the time to set priorities as Pakistan battles with one of the worst floods in its history.”
Prominent educationist and the prime minister’s special assistant Shahnaz Wazir Ali spoke about feeding sessions in schools as a means to retain students. “It ensures that children come to school and has a deep impact on socio-economic development,” she said.
“The federal government has provided Rs400 million to the provinces to design and implement food education infrastructure. Provinces are now in the driving seat and can decide which measures they want to take in delivering education,” she said.
Fata education directorate’s Fazal Manan said that the area’s literacy rate is a meagre 17%, which is the lowest across the country. “There are three major issues that we are tackling: access to education, quality of service and across-the-board availability. Bad governance is another problem area.”
Manan said that there are approximately 600,000 students in Fata against 21,000 teachers. Most buildings, he said, are partially or fully damaged and establishment of a university in Fata is also on the cards.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2011.