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EditorialFuture of education at risk

Future of education at risk

In recent years, two consecutive disasters have put the future of education in Pakistan at risk. First, it was Covid-19 that contributed to increasing the ratio of dropouts from schools as many families could not afford educational expenses of their children due to tough economic conditions in the post pandemic regime. Second, the recent historic floods have made it almost impossible for millions of children to go to schools. The province of Sindh is the worst hit in this regard. According to an initial survey, 15,000 schools in the province have been damaged by the floods, while 5,000 school buildings are currently being used as shelters for flood survivors resulting in school dropouts of about 2.5 million children.

Already the government of Sindh does not enjoy a good reputation for allocating ample budget or providing necessary facilities at public schools in backward areas of the province. The latest calamity of floods has further exposed the vulnerability of the education sector, which in simple words has collapsed altogether.

Studies have shown that it took several years to restore school buildings during the previous floods of 2010 in the country, which were smaller in scale compared to the current horrific waves that have submerged almost one third of the country while the death toll has exceeded 1300. Nobody knows how many months or years will be required to restore educational infrastructure in the country given the present state of affairs that depict an utterly dismal picture. However, any lethargy in this regard will only result in the creation of an illiterate generation. Albeit, the government needs to impose an education emergency in the country and work on a war footing for restoring the missing educational link. In this regard, the concerned education authorities can approach international donors, funding agencies that are working for the promotion of education sector. The role of Malala Fund is very imperative in this regard. Ms. Malala needs to come forward and play her due role for ameliorating the plight of education sector through the involvement of her NGO. A precedent set by Ms. Malala would surely be followed by many other national, international philanthropists and education activists in the field.

The education sector is one of those areas that have faced government’s neglect for the last seven decades. Pakistan’s current expenditure on education is the lowest in South Asia. According to the latest estimate, Pakistan’s literacy rate is 59.98 percent that is the lowest amongst the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries except Afghanistan. These figures only cause further embarrassment for the whole nation.

There is a need to launch a countrywide movement especially in flood-hit areas to save the future of hundreds of students who want to continue their education despite tough conditions.

Education is not merely a matter of priority; it is also the future of the country that lies in the development of the education sector. There is no escape from admitting the reality that Pakistan’s poor spending on education has contributed to raising a society tending toward illiteracy and intolerance and which has, because of decades of neglect, embraced militancy and extremist ideologies.

In a country like ours where education and the average literacy rate is in an abysmal state, to see us moving forward into the future with no clue as to how to educate the next generation becoming a victim of climate disaster as well as government’s neglect,  is a great tragedy indeed. Pakistan needs to reverse its lackluster attitude towards educating its future generation while channelizing all possible resources amid this flood disaster.

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