Pakistan may face an uphill task in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and Education For All (EFA) goals by the 2015 deadline. Among other things, it is due to lack of commitment and insufficient allocation of resources.
These views were expressed by participants at the Inter-Provincial Forum on Early Childhood Education (ECE) that took place at a private hotel on Thursday.
The discussion was held to review progress towards achieving of the ECE goals, after which the participants demanded allocation of at least five percent of GDP for education from provincial government, in order to achieve these goals.
The ECE is the first of six goals of the EFA. The government, along with 164 countries committed to achieve six EFA goals by 2015 at Dakar, Senegal in April 2000.
The participants discussed the significance of the ECE in the context of the 18th Amendment which recognises the access to free and compulsory education as the fundamental right of all children between the ages of five and 16 years. It was underlined that two years have passed, but no provincial assembly has so far passed any legislation for enforcement of Article 25-A in the respective provinces.
Pakistan is lagging behind other countries of the region in the field of education as almost 34 percent of primary school-age children are out of school as compared to 19 percent in Bangladesh and 17 percent in India.
“Educationists and the International community are concerned about the situation, as it is feared that based on past and present trends, Pakistan is not likely to achieve any of the six EFA Goals,” said UNESCO Senior National Specialist on Education Arshad Saeed. “About 7 million children are out of school, 50 million children of age 10 are illiterate, and quality of learning is low in schools,” he added.
According to Saeed, one of the main reasons for low indicators of education in Pakistan is that governments have not increased their budget proportionate to the needs of the rising population growth especially of children.
UNESCO Representative to Pakistan Dr Kozue Kay Nagata said that very unfortunately, good quality early childhood education is available only to some privileged children.
Though Punjab Education Minister Mujtaba Shuja Ur Rehman admitted that ECE has been a neglected area in the past, he said his government fully appreciates that ECE would help in achieving the targets of 100 percent enrollment, retention of students and quality education.
Balochistan Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Raquiya Saeed Hashmi added that it was difficult for the provincial government to achieve the education goals amid deteriorating law and order in the provinces. “How can we achieve (socio-economic) targets when we are receiving decomposed dead bodies and our hands are tightened,” Hashmi said.
The forum was jointly organised by Agha Khan Foundation, UNESCO and UNICEF, and was attended by ministers, civil society and donor organisations.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2012.