Sharp Rise in Number of Out-of-School Children

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Pakistan is facing a staggering education crisis, with a whopping 26.2 million out-of-school children (OSC), according to a recent report by the Pakistan Institute of Education in collaboration with UNESCO. This number represents a disturbing 40% increase from 2021 to 2022, with Pakistan now ranking third in the world after Nigeria and India in terms of the highest number of OSC.

The report highlights a bleak picture across all provinces, with Punjab leading the list with 10.11 million children lacking access to education, followed closely by Sindh with 7 million, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with 3.6 million, and Balochistan with 3.1 million. Even the federal capital, Islamabad, has 80,000 children who are not attending school.

The root causes of this crisis run deep, with 39% of OSC unable to attend school due to various factors, including poverty, cultural beliefs, and conflict. Balochistan has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of OSC, with 65% of children missing out on education. While Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa boasts a relatively higher educational standard, 30% of its children remain absent from school.

An analysis of the data reveals a stark reality at different levels of education. At the intermediate level, 60% of students are still denied access to education, while at the matriculation, middle, and primary levels, 44%, 30%, and 36% of children, respectively, are not attending school.

Education is a fundamental right and a critical component of sustainable development. It empowers individuals to break free from poverty, reduces inequalities, and promotes gender equity. Quality education is essential for fostering tolerance, building peaceful societies, and achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To address this crisis, Pakistan must prioritize education financing and adopt a multi-pronged approach that includes making education free and compulsory, training and upskilling teachers, improving basic school infrastructure, and harnessing technology to enhance learning. With the lowest rate of girls’ education globally (58% of females are uneducated), Pakistan faces significant challenges in providing quality education to its youth.

Acknowledgement: Reported by Express Tribune on 22-01-2024

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