The federal government has taken a vitally important step for spreading education in the country. Recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiled the Ehsaas Education Stipends programme under which monetary incentives will be provided to attract girls and boys to school. In a country where literacy rate is only 59%, slightly above 71% males are literate, a mere 47% females are educated, and 18.7 million children of school-going age are out of school, the stipend programme will encourage parents to get their boys and girls enrolled in school. Considering the low female literacy rate and the significant role that educated women play in the good upbringing of children, girls will be paid better scholarships in terms of money than boys at the primary, secondary and higher secondary levels. The minimum requirement for entitlement to the scholarships will be up to 70% attendance, and the money will be paid to mothers.
A fool-proof mechanism is claimed to have been put in place to ensure that only the deserving get the stipends and these funds are not misused. This is necessary in view of the experience with other cash handout programmes: how officials and members of the public, though well-off but not endowed with conscience, received money by fraudulent means from schemes meant for the poorest of the poor. The PM has emphatically said ghost schools and other corrupt practices in education won’t be tolerated, and atest technology will be used to eliminate all kinds of fraud from the educational system.
Currently the school drop-out rate is undesirably high, and more girls drop out of school than boys. Further, girls from poor families are compelled to abandon education between fifth and eighth classes. The stipend programme, aimed at attracting greater numbers of children to school, will hopefully reverse this bad trend. The government has realised the importance of basic education. Students who have a solid education at the school level do better than others in higher education. This is why educationists have long been emphasising the strengthening of basic education.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2021.
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