The National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) recently voiced concerns about the sheer number of out-of-school children in Pakistan, now amounting to 23 million in total. Those already enrolled are going to subpar government schools that lack the equipment, resources and expertise to educate the children at the levels required. These kids are supposed to be the future of the country, and it is harrowing to see that there is little effort put into not only establishing high-quality schools but informing the population about the importance of education as a whole.
Discourse on development and progress has primarily been dominated by economic and political concerns, but little attention is paid to the foundational requirements of a state–i.e. an effective education system. Pakistan supports the world’s second-highest rate of out-of-school children despite countless claims by successive governments of revolutionising the sector and improving the sector. Unfortunately, either we lack the political will, a stable political environment, funds, resources and the necessary awareness needed to embark upon completely updating the education system, and the sector as a whole.
Outside of this, there are a few other problems that are worth addressing. Most families in Pakistan are not spoilt for choice and must send their children to work so that they can earn, instead of ‘wasting’ their time going to school. This sentiment is common across poor, and low-income families, and while we must empathise, it truly does stand in the way of future progress. Not only that, but it limits the prospects the child has going forward with their life. With child labor being common in Pakistan, there are also high levels of exploitation that the state is unable to protect children from. Thus in most cases, it is a lose-lose situation and what is worse is that we are leaving these children completely ill-equipped to sustain themselves in the future.
While the aim of the NCHD is to promote enrollment, provide quality education and make it accessible in all areas of Pakistan, there is more that must be done. Surface-level claims and promises will do little to help achieve this aim, unless they are backed up by significant efforts towards materialising projects. We need a more holistic approach by the state, and independent authorities, that targets not only institutions but the perception of education held by the masses as well.