By Azhar Saeed Hashmi
The Pakistan’s education system has been a victim of its own governance. The current education budget is merely two percent of the total GDP. The federal government should increase it to at least seven percent to counter rising illiteracy rate in the country. A prime example, in this case, is of Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammed, who was the longest-serving Prime Minister of the country holding the post for an unopposed 22 years. He made Malaysia great by allocating 30 percent of the annual budget on education that brought revolutionary changes in the country impacting economic growth and improved the living standards of the people.
Many would argue that Mohammed did not have to face terrorism that is currently eating Pakistan like a wildfire. However, the Nawaz government should create a foreign policy that makes the region stronger negating personal interest and pursuing growth opportunities for Pakistan. It will significantly drop the high budget allocation for defense and emphasizes will be laid on the most staggering of challenges that include education and healthcare reforms in the country.
Literacy rate in Pakistan stands at a shocking 43% while only 7% of the primary school pass out students are classified as literate. The country has no uniformity with the rich going to private English schools that demand hundreds and thousands of rupees in annual fees. Although, the majority of the population is living under Rs. 15,000 a month, for them to even think of paying these exorbitant fees is a dream too far. On the other hand, government schools lack basic facilities such as water, electricity, writing table and the most important the teachers. Extreme poverty in rural areas see student numbers declining where the majority of the children work with their parents, some are forcefully kept as bonded laborers by influential landlords who have the backing of the local Minister Provincial Assembly (MPA) or Minister National Assembly (MNA). In District Thatta things are at their absolute worse.
The utter ignorance of the Sindh government and, in particular, Minister for Education Sindh, Nisar Khuhro should be made accountable for 67% students that are out of school and for the 49% schools that are not functional in the area. Furthermore, 84% schools in the district do not have electricity, 89% are without proper sewerage, 50% do not have access to clean water and 72% schools do not have a front gate. If we consider the current security situation in Pakistan and the National Action Plan, all schools should have security as advised and they should all have gates and boundary walls to protect the students. Unfortunately, the Sindh Education Department is either busy having Bhang or taking other toxic measures to know that at least 59% of schools in Thatta does not have a boundary wall, and the situation is almost the same in the entire rural Sindh province. Pakistan People’s Party has been at the forefront of making Sindh magnificent for decades, but they have not been able to transform a single town, village or city into an example for other provinces to follow. What Mohenjo-Daro was 2500 BCE ago Larkana represents the same picture today.
It is a harsh reality but the majority of the students passing out from schools, colleges and universities in Sindh (except Karachi and Hyderabad) either cheat in their exams or send someone else to give their examination papers. The government has no check and balance on both the government and private education institutions. There are private school organizations across the country and education ministries on provincial and federal level but so far we have not seen any uniformity in the education structure. There is unquestionably no check to safeguard the rights of the students that seek quality education and the parents. A recently surfaced video of a government school in Lyari shows that even urban cities are not up to the mark when it comes to providing quality education.
The students in their last year of finishing primary education could not write in. This is an alarming situation for all of us. Intolerance, extremism and terrorism will continue to take over our lives in Pakistan if quality and equal education is not provided to the generation of today. We are now living in a globalised society that has pressing demands; a nation cannot afford illiteracy or its youth without quality education. This will in return bring a decline in economic conditions, create a great disparity between classes and ruin our social values. Let’s demand answers and involve in a healthy dialogue with our leaders to make Pakistan the country we all hoped to see.