As if corona pandemic was not enough to play havoc with the future of students, the natural calamities in the form of unprecedented rains and flash floods have damaged thousands of schools across the country, resulting in cancellation and suspension of education of millions of children in the flood affected areas.
Provisional data from provincial Education Departments show that at least 17,566 schools have been damaged or destroyed due to the emergency: 15,842 schools in Sindh, 544 in Balochistan and 1,180 in Punjab. Additionally, at least 5,492 schools are reportedly being used to accommodate displaced people.
Educationists say that the situation will result in unprecedented educational losses in a country where the number of schoolchildren dropouts is already high. It will result in further increase in the number of out-of-school children. As per available date, there are at least 18.7 million children in Pakistan that never went to school. Pakistan stands second in the list of countries that have the highest number of out-of-school children. As estimated, 22.8 million children between the age of 5 to 16 years do not go to school.
According to the latest statistics of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) these out of school children form 44 per cent of the population in this age group, which is an alarming situation. These statistics clearly negate claims of successive governments of enrolling more children in schools.
Educating such a huge population of out-of-school children is a challenge for governments, both federal and provincial. Ensuring international standards within the existing education system is even harder. Almost every government since the inception of the country has come up with plans to educate masses, but they were never fully implemented. A recent report says that one in every four Pakistani children has never been enrolled in school.
Balochistan province has the lowest participation rate and highest number of out-of-school children. These statistics reflect the alarming situation of both foundational skills and their significance for productivity and growth.
The figures indicate that there is a slow pace of progress on education participation as well as closing of the gender gap. The situation is almost the same in every province. For example, Balochistan province has the lowest participation rate and highest number of out-of-school children. These statistics reflect the alarming situation of both foundational skills and their significance for productivity and growth. Our economic condition is dire and only a well-educated workforce can ensure an economic growth.
Inaction in bringing children and youth to schools will adversely affect Pakistan’s potential for higher productivity and economic progress, and will continue to maintain a large informal labour market and substantial amount of poverty. The destruction of schools in floods may exacerbate the challenges of an already perilous education system by increasing dropouts, and reducing the chances of learning among students.
The formidable challenges of out-of-school children call for a coordinated approach both at the federal and provincial as well as district levels. Getting millions of children to schools is a gigantic task that will require consistent efforts for years at all the government levels. Inaction can lead to millions of more children dropping-out of schools in the country.
The aim and objective should be to garner support of key influencers from all walks of life to ensure that education and the future of children does not take a backseat after the floods. The international donor agencies must come to help build the damaged schools on priority basis so that the future of millions of children can be saved.