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September 30, 2019

Can Sindh bring 4.2 million children back to school?

Karachi

September 30, 2019

On August 3, then minister for education and literacy Syed Sardar Shah in the Sindh cabinet announced his school education plan focusing on the enrollment of around 4.2 million out-of-school children. Two days later, he was removed from his post in a major cabinet reshuffle and Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who already possessed all-important portfolios of home affairs, finance, planning, and development, kept the education ministry too.

Critics say such decisions show the Sindh government’s non-seriousness towards education as the department is being run without the education minister despite the fact the province is far behind in a number of indicators, including access to education, quality and equity which measures progress against the goals set by Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2013, and the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.

Though well-nigh all stakeholders, including the civil society, bureaucracy and donor agencies, have been trying to overcome the dropout ratio, a number of issues are hindrances to access to education.

They almost agree to cope with these problems, particularly the issue of illiteracy and out-of-school children. However, such goals can’t be achieved without the assistance of the provincial government, education experts believe.

Latest facts & figures

Last month, while presenting his education plan to a cabinet meeting held on August 3, 2019, then education minister Syed Sardar Shah had revealed that 49,103 state-run schools – 44,317 primary schools, 2,693 elementary, 1776 high and 317 higher secondary schools – were functioning across the province. Shah had pointed out that 5,922 had no facilities such as toilets, boundary walls, electricity, and drinking water.

According to the report Shah had presented before the cabinet, around 37,705 lacked some of basic amenities and services. Of the total number, 7,611 schools had no roof, 10,516 were being operated in a single room and 18,507 were housed in two classrooms.

The report further stated that 18,660 schools were being run by a single teacher, 12,136 schools had no teacher and 11441 schools had no enrolment. Likewise, around 4.2 million children were out of school, and 90 percent of teachers could only teach arts subjects. Even though, the department had trained at least 40,000 teachers, no tangible improvements were observed in their teaching methods, as they failed to bring about any change in schooling.

In the meeting, it was also highlighted that textbooks and curriculum desperately needed some significant changes. The cabinet had decided that examinations would be conducted in open spaces under surveillance cameras.

Non-seriousness

However, instead of addressing these issues, the chief minister made changes in the cabinet. The programme presented by the education minister in the cabinet was set aside, while the education department’s drive to enrol out-of-school children was badly affected.

Officials along with teachers had visited various areas to bring a maximum number of children to schools, but, after the removal of the education minister, the campaign quickly ran out of steam without achieving its targets.

The Institute of Social and Policy Science, an Islamabad-based think tank, in its latest report, has said Sindh’s Education and Literacy Department had enrolled 821,000 children in 2009-10. Of them, 183,000 children reached level 10 in 2018-19, while the rest of the students dropped out in different classes at different stages. Thus, the dropout ratio remained 78 percent.

The ISAPS has pointed out that Sindh lacks middle, high and higher schools. They are less than 89 percent as compare to primary schools in the province. As per the data, Sindh has 2693 middle, 1776 high and only 317 higher secondary schools which don’t meet to requirement.

The fate of children

Owing to such a deteriorating situation, the Sindh government is unable to reduce the out-of-school children’s ratio, which has nearly remained the same over the past one decade. Sindh has also the second highest number of out-of-school children in Pakistan, after Balochistan.

According to the government record, among the total 12 million children aged between 5 and 16 years in the province, 4.2 million are out of school. The Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2013, states; “Every child of the age of five to sixteen years regardless of sex and race should have a fundamental right to free and compulsory education in a school.”

The act further elaborates; “No child should be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing the school education. The privately-owned schools would be bound to provide free education to 10 percent students of the total. If a child above five years of age has not been admitted in any school and they dropped out from school they will be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age.”

However, strict implementation of the act is still awaited. The provincial government needs to be focused on providing access to education to meet international criteria accords and standards of education, but it seems that the province lags far behind other provinces to meet the SDG 4.

Sindh and Goal 4

The ISAPS in its reports has mentioned that if the Sindh government wants to meet the Sustainable Development Goal — an intergovernmental agreement set by Untitled Nations for the year 2030, the provincial education department would need 153,567 classrooms in the coming 10 years.

The SDG 4 particularly focuses on quality education and states: “Quality Education – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

The institute further suggests that the province needs to recruit 306,492 teachers for achieving the goal of free and compulsory education within 10 years. There is also need to engage public representatives and communities’ leaders to accomplish the UN target for education by 2030.

The Sindh government should introduce rules of business under the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2013 and make sure its implementations.

The organisation further recommends that a compressive plan is needed for the implementation of laws. Around 4.2 million children aged between 5 and 16 years will be admitted to schools in different phases in the next 10 years from 2019 to 2030.

The provincial government should ensure effective use of funding and present a quarterly budget before the members of the Sindh Assembly.

18,660 schools are being run by a single teacher, according to a report.

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