Peshawar - Where literacy rate is essential in bringing socio-economic uplift in a country and putting it on the path to development and prosperity, it also indicates the priorities of a particular government it set for the well-being of the masses.
In a country like Pakistan where the population has crossed the psychological barrier of 240 million in May this year, and where there are an estimated 22.8 million out-of-school children, the education sector was in dire need of more attention and resources by the authorities concerned.
The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP)’s national socioeconomic registration census report 2021 revealed that 4.7 million children aged 5 to 16 years were out of school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The breakup of the data-informed that 1.38 million male and 2.38 million female students were out of school in KP, while 0.36 million male and 0.65 million were out of school in seven merged tribal districts owing to a lack of educational institutions, poverty, and other socioeconomic barriers mostly caused by population explosion.
The highest percentage of 77 percent was reported in Palas Kolai district followed by 70 percent in Upper Kohistan, 69 percent in Lower Kohistan, 61 in Torghar, 55 in Shangla, 53 in Lakki Marwat, and 51 percent each in Tank and Batagram districts.
In erstwhile FATA, around 66 percent of children were out-of-school in North Waziristan, 63 percent in Bajaur, 61 in South Waziristan, 51 in Mohmand and Khyber, and 47 percent each in Kurram and Orakzai.
“I left education in childhood after the untimely death of my father due to blood cancer. After enormous financial problems, I started labour work to support my six sisters and an ailing mother,” said Faizur Rehman (18), a resident of Pabbi Nowshera while tears rolling down his cheeks.
“My father wanted to see me as an engineer but the fortune overturned and I was left with no option but to enter the painstaking construction labour work to support my family,” he added.
Besides poverty and socioeconomic imbalances especially in rural areas, he said most of poor students left education due to the expansive cost of books and other education expenses.
Muhammad Shahab Khan, Chief Planning Officer, Education Department KP told APP that bringing out of school children under the education net was a big challenge.
For bringing 300,000 children to schools in KP in the next three years billions of rupees were required including Rs2.10 billion for the provision of free uniforms, stationary and bags, Rs10.4 billion for the construction of 10,000 schools for the second shift programme, and Rs6.7 billion for the establishment of 1,000 Alternate Learning Pathways (ALP), he informed.
Moreover, Rs0.14 billion were required for distance learning programmes including the establishment of digital studies and laboratories, FM education channels, Rs2.63 billion for the transformation of 5000 Early Childhood Education (ECE) rooms, and Rs0.97 billion were needed for subsidized transport services for marginalized areas’ Primary schools, he mentioned.
Shahab Khan said 15,667 new schools were immediately required to enrol 300 such children (aged 5-9 years) per school by next academic year, adding ALP centres were initiated for old aged out-of-school children under which 58,000 such children were enrolled in 1692 centres established with assistance of UNICEF, USAID, Elementary Schools Education Foundation, National Commission for Humans Development and Action to Strengthen Performance for Inclusive and Responsive Education (AS - PIRE) in the province.
Besides the development of curriculum and textual material for primary school children, he said assessment tools were developed for ALP classes, while the ALP assessment mechanism policy was under review for approval.
ECE programmes were launched for the overall development of poor students by focusing on their languages and social-emotional competencies imperative for a smooth transition to kindergarten and under this initiative 1000 ECE classrooms were transformed into modern nurseries while 2773 ECE rooms were established.
Besides the establishment of 100 ECE centres in Kurram and Orakzai with the assistance of UNICEF last year, he said 1600 ECE centres would be established through GPE funding in the next five years while 100 ECE rooms would be set up through KP-HICP under which 250 were already established.
Shahab said the ECE policy was ready for approval while teaching materials including teachers’ guidebook and handbook for ECE mode of learning were also prepared. Transformation of Katchi into ECE was in progress besides the completion of training of 790 master trainers and 425 teachers on ECE.
The official said the voucher stipend programme was launched to enrol talented out-of-school children in private schools.
Besides the disbursement of Rs2.4 billion among female students with 80pc attendance in schools of underprivileged areas, Shahab said stipend programmes for retention of poor students were launched yielding positive results.
Ikhlaq Ahmed, Chief Education Officer KP said over 900,000 students including outof- school children were enrolled last year in KP.
He said stars of KP, and ETEA merit scholarships were launched to increase the students’ enrolment and bring out-of-school children into the education net.
Javeera, spokesperson of BISP KP said Rs1500 per three months were being provided to each boy student and Rs2000 to girls at the primary level, Rs2500 for boys and Rs3000 for girls at the secondary level, and Rs3500 for boys and Rs4000 per girl at higher secondary school level to facilitate poor students.
Since the inception of BISP, she said over one million children were enrolled under BISP’s Education Scholarship Programme.
Despite all these endeavours, there was still a lot to be done to boost the education sector and increase the literacy rate in Pakistan.