There is no doubt that developed nations of today have heavily invested in education reforms in the past. As Malcolm X, once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” The father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah emphasised the importance of education saying, “Education is a matter of life and death to our nation. The world is moving so fast, that if you do not educate yourself, you will be not only completely left behind but also be no more.’’
With the 18th constitutional amendment, elementary and secondary education is now the subject of provinces and there is a significant body of literature that proves the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) integral initiatives for enhancing learning and educational outcomes in the province.
From a healthy investment in higher education to primary education at the provincial level, all stakeholders of the government of K-P are engaged in reaching out to every individual to develop an educated and enlightened nation. K-P remained on top with the highest literacy rate as reported by Pakistan Economic Survey 2022. K-P government and its education department have shown unwavering commitment and dedication to improving performance in the education sector.
Education has remained the top priority of the provincial government of K-P. The provincial government has introduced several reforms and initiatives to improve student learning outcomes. The reforms and initiatives include Second Shift Schools, Digital Literacy Project, Provision of the latest furniture, free textbooks and uniforms, various types of scholarships, professional courses, training for teachers, etc.
Despite these successful initiatives, the Government of K-P is still facing several challenges. One of the major challenges is Out of School Children (OOSC). An estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 are out-of-school in Pakistan according to UNICEF. This is the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children in any country. All provincial governments are working hard to meet the challenge of OOSC. The Elementary and Secondary Education department (E&SED) of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has formally started its School Enrollment Drive-2022 to onboard more and more children and decrease the OOSC. The campaign started with the slogan “Parhy Ga Tu Bharhy Ga Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” on August 1, 2022, and will end by August 30, 2022, with various physical and online activities. The focus is particularly on vulnerable groups such as poor-income households, refugee children, girls, and disabled children. The apparent target set for this enrollment drive is to bring one million out-of-school children into school.
The elementary and secondary education department is ambitious in leveraging all the physical and human resources to enroll the targeted population. The education department has started mass media awareness campaigns, conducting seminars, cultural functions at schools, door-to-door visits, awareness walks, and sermons at Jumma prayers in mosques of the entire province for the purpose of effective outreach to all segments of society. E&SED is also getting ample support in the enrollment drive from various developmental partners like GIZ, civil society organizations like SRSP, universities like IMSciences, etc. The K-P Elementary and Secondary Education department believes that bringing all children to school would require every segment of the society to play its role including civil society, religious scholars, political, social, and human rights activists. Another important feature of the enrolment drive is that for the first time the student enrolment drive has not only been started in "First shift Schools" but also in "Second Shift Schools". Those children especially girls who cannot join the school in the morning shift due to their pressing domestic commitments or any other issue can join the school in the "Second shift".
To ensure maximum facilitation to the children and their parents, efforts have been made to make the admission procedure as handy as possible. CM K-P Mahmood Khan, Minister E&SED Mr. Shahram Khan Tarakai, and Secretary E&SED Motasim Billah Shah, are leading the whole initiative from the front across the province including newly merged areas.
During the year 2021, the school enrollment campaign has shown remarkably good results and restored the trust of the parents in government schools. The target in 2021 was to enroll 0.8 million children in government schools however the number of children enrolled, 0.96 million, were more than the target. The effort and success of the K-P were appreciated at the national and international levels. The E&SE department in K-P is striving to elevate the standard of education in government schools. The political and administrative leadership of the province is determined to halt the dropouts and decrease the number in no time.
Sheikh Fakhar-e-Alam is a freelancer and a Communication Specialist in the Elementary and Secondary Education Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He tweets @ShFakharA. All information and facts provided are the sole responsibility of the writer.