UNICEF Expert- Punjab Education suffering from 5.03 million girls out of school due to religious and political factors

Institute of Social and Policy Sciences organised Policy Dialogue on the theme of ‘Equity in Education Financing, Inferences, Moot Points and Policy Asks’.  UNICEF education specialist Rubina Nadeem addressing the gathering on the occasion revealed the alarming figure.

Pakistan tops world ranking in out-of-school children coming behind only Nigeria. Ms. Nadeem said that in spite of initiatives from the government for ensuring equitable access to quality education over the last many years in Punjab; it is still amongst the leading provinces in this regard. Even the Tribal belts are better off than the so-called more developed Punjab in this regards.

Punjabi girls not getting education

Adding to it she said that, the challenge was still big despite the efforts being made to ensure the provision of quality education in the province due to the spread of religious fundamentalism in most parts of Punjab who force girls to leave schools.

The UNICEF expert Ms. Nadeem highlighted that poverty plays an important role in limiting reach for the educational opportunities available to any child. Punjab’s poverty ‘headcount ratio’ has been estimated at around 31 percent of the population. This refute the recent figures declared by the federal government which pegs poverty at 24.6% on 26 April 2018.

UNICEF-Punjab is facing multiple challenges due to various factors

These factors include-

  • Equitable access to education (including gender)
  • Location
  • Geographical access
  • Ethnicity
  • Poverty
  • Disability
  • Students’ retention in early years of schooling.

Punjab Education Foundation’s claims

Eng Qamarul Islam Raja, Chairman, Punjab Education Foundation said around 11.5 million children were enrolled in the public sector schools of the province and about 3m children were enrolled with PEF-supported schools. He said though the government had taken steps for the implementation of the Article 25 A of the Constitution, a lot is yet to be done. He said in future, the government would allocate Rs400 billion for school education in the upcoming budget.

Where are the education funds going?

Ahmed Ali, Senior Research Fellow said an inverse relationship existed between the proportion of out of school children in 5-16 years age group and per-student spending at the district level — Rahim Yar Khan, Vehari, and Muzaffargarh. He declared that 47 % children in 5-16 years age group were out of school in Rahim Yar Khan. He also mentioned inspite of recommendations from UNICEF, Federal government has been allocating large amounts of funds to Pakistan Army. The Army has also been generating its own revenues from various businesses it owns. Being the defence force Pakistan Army also does not give any taxes or declares accounts to show how it is spending the income.

He emphasised that all the stakeholders should deliberate upon the critical relevance of responsive decision making, expenditure and resource allocation towards access to quality education for all, especially at the provincial level.

28 Apr 2018/Saturday                                                                                                                  Written by Mohd Tahir Shafi