With more than 10,000 schools damaged, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has shown concern over 1.5 to 2.5 million enrolments affected by the floods – a figure likely to increase in the wake of ongoing assessments.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) estimates, approximately 9,700 government schools have been damaged or destroyed out of which 40 per cent (2,700) have been destroyed and 7,000 partly damaged. “It’s a difficult challenge as there is no standardised pattern and the number of children enrolled in schools varies (between 30 and 60 children),” said Umar Alam, a Unesco official at a press conference on Wednesday.
The floods have also affected Pakistan’s ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Education dynamics show that Pakistan’s literacy rate is 57 per cent, which have to be raised to 88 per cent to achieve the MDG goal by 2015.
Expressing concern over the plight of children in secondary schools, Unesco said: “The age (between) 13 and 18 is a very critical stage and the cost is higher. In case a household’s income is affected, instead of encouraging children in this age group to study, their parents prefer them to work. The number of dropouts is higher in secondary schools than in primary schools,” said Alam. Unesco has so far set up 100 adult literacy centres across Pakistan to restore secondary education.
The agency also emphasised the importance of reconstruction of better and secure structures. “Currently, there are millions of children sitting in unsafe classrooms,” said Alam.
A total of 453 schools have been vacated since September 17, bringing the total number of schools used as shelters down to 3,180, which are providing sanctuary to 957,441 people.
The number of flood-damaged schools has reached 9,698 including additional schools in Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2010.
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