PM considering plan to declare four-year education emergency

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ISLAMABAD: The federal government in principle has decided to declare a four-year education emergency in the country to tackle out-of-school-children and other pressing issues in the sector.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in coming days is likely to declare the education emergency. Sources said the PM was expected to chair a conference on 30 April 2024, but on Monday night it was postponed for a few days because of his other engagements.

Pakistan has 26.2 million out-of school children (OOSC). Besides the OOSC crisis, the country is also facing the low literacy rate of 62pc. Likewise, the government`s dismal spending of 1.7pc of the Gross Domestic Product (GPD) in the education sector is a matter of concern. Similarly, disparity in the availability of essential facilities such as toilets, potable water and boundary walls in schools in different parts of the country is also a matter of concern.

A large number of schools across the country, particularly in the peripheries, are without potable water and other basic facilities.

Last month, Federal Education Minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui after getting a briefing from officials about OOSC and other educational facilities across the country had said he would request the prime minister and the federal cabinet to declare a national education emergency.

Pakistan Education Statistics in its recent report for 2021-22 pointed out that there were 26.21 million OOSC inthe country. The report stated that 39pc children in Pakistan were out of school: 11.73 million in Punjab, 7.63m in Sindh, 3.63m in KP, 3.13m in Balochistan and 0.08 million in Islamabad.

The education ministry before the meeting was postponed on Monday issued a press release which stated: `With a commitment to leave no child behind, the National Conference on Education Emergency underscores Pakistan’s dedication to building a more equitable and prosperous society through.

It said the National Conference on Education Emergency scheduled to take place at the Prime Minister`s Office on April 30 [now postponed] aims to address the pressing issues of out-of school children, learning poverty and to provide support to lagging districts across Pakistan.

Chaired by the prime minister, the event will be attended by chief ministers, country heads of development part-ners, diplomats, foreign delegates and educationists from around the globe.

`The conference serves as a platform for collaborative efforts, bringing together key stakeholders to devise effective strategies and initiatives to ensure inclusive and quality education for all children in Pakistan. Through targeted interventions and collective action, the conference seeks to pave the way for transformative change in the education sector, fostering a brighter future for the nation,` the press release said.

A source said due to PM`s engagement in Saudi Arabia, the proposed conference had been postponed for a week.

When contacted, Secretary Education Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani said that bringing improvement to the education sector was main the agenda of the federal and provincial governments. He said that on the direction of the PM and education minister, the education ministry in collaboration with all stakeholders was taking steps to bring improvement.

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn News on 30th April 2024.
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