As the harrowing assumptions of climate change take life, Pakistan is one of the countries to bear its brunt. Just a few months back, Pakistan was facing heatwaves. Jacobabad became the hottest city in the world in May 2022 as temperatures soared to 51 degrees celsius. Now, just a few months later, almost one-third of the country is under water due to heavy and unprecedented rainfall during the monsoon season, which caused extreme floods throughout Pakistan. All four provinces, as well as Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, suffered because of these floods, and the the government had to declare a national emergency in 110 districts across the country.
The county’s former finance minister Miftah Ismail estimated that the floods have caused at least 18.5 billion US dollars in damage. These are still early guesstimates. The country not only faces a serious economic challenge but also a food security crisis along with countless others, but there’s one challenge that will have grave consequences for the country’s future — the impact of climate change on youth.
According to Unesco, more than 10,000 schools were damaged by the floods in 2010, affecting the education of 1.5 to 2.5 million students across the country. In 2022, Unicef refers to reports which highlights colossal damage to the education infrastructure caused by the recent floods, which shows millions of children’s education will be directly affected and many thousands will drop out of schools, colleges and universities, due to poverty or lack of educational opportunities.
The school dropout rate skyrockets if families lose their animals, crops, lands and houses in floods. The young ones are forced to leave school and earn a living for their families. They are subjected to child labour, working at workshops, factories, or as domestic help. Poverty caused by climate change is particularly tough for young women, as they are not only forced to drop out of school but also forced into child marriages.
Similarly, as the fall term approaches, numerous students would hope to secure admissions in public and private sector universities, medical and engineering colleges, but since millions of people have been affected by the recent floods, how many will actually make it to higher education institutes? Even if a decent number surmounts the first barrier and gets admission, it will be extremely difficult for them to finance their accommodation in the city, along with daily meals and transportation costs. Countless dreams would get shattered.
The federal government’s pledge for scholarships and fee waivers for post and undergraduates was announced by the Federal Minister for Education in consultation with the Higher Education Commission (HEC), but gave the discretionary powers to the universities to decide whether a student is deserving of the financial compensation.
As per the WHO, the youth and children are the most vulnerable to climate change. They may suffer more than 80 percent of injuries, health issues, and deaths because of the changing environment. According to a research paper written after the 2010 floods, titled The Prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among Flood Affected School Children in Pakistan, 73 percent of children aged between 10 to 19 highlighted significantly higher levels of PTSD, specifically among those who were displaced.
The great revolutionary Vladimir Lenin said, “Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world”. Surely the government realizes that the youth comprises more than 60 percent of the population and holds the key to a bright and prosperous future. The federal government’s pledge for scholarships and fee waivers for post and undergraduates was announced by the Federal Minister for Education in consultation with the Higher Education Commission (HEC), but gave the discretionary powers to the universities to decide whether a student is deserving of the financial compensation. Nothing substantial and direct has come from the government’s side for students.
All eyes are now on the money-minting private education sector to accommodate the students from disaster-hit areas and truly prove that they care about the youth and the development of the country, as they claim, over their usual profiteering.
I don’t think forcing private institutions to subsidize public education is a realistic plan. The government needs to get its finances in order and rebuild these schools as part of a comprehensive plan to rebuild and deal with the further threats posed by climate change.