Tuesday September 28, 2021

Over 1m kids may drop out of schools after pandemic

April 09, 2021

Islamabad : Pakistan no longer has the luxury to focus on bringing the colossal pre-pandemic figure of 22.8 million out-of-school children into schools but must now actively strategize to prevent a roll-back on important gains made vis-à-vis education, especially girls’ access to education in the last decade. Inaction can result in millions of more Pakistani children dropping-out of schools.”

These views were expressed by Areebah Shahid, Executive Director Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA) at the launch of the #InvestInEducationStrengthenPakistan campaign. Education activists, influencers and media personalities from around the country gathered for the virtual event. The aim was to garner the support of key influencers from all walks of life to ensure that education and the future of over 80 million Pakistani children does not take a backseat during COVID-19.

Key findings and recommendations of the recently released white paper by PYCA, ‘Public Investment in Education: Covid 19 and other Past Emergencies,’ were also shared with the participants. The white paper is authored by Asim Bashir Khan, an economist and public financial management expert.

Presenting an overview of the white paper’s findings, Asim stated, “Cuts in education budgets and more specifically within the education development expenditure are a routine practice and have little to do with the fall-out of emergency situations such as the on-going pandemic.” Elaborating this point, he added, “The most recent budget (fiscal year 2020-21), for instance seems to be a continuation of past trends rather than a result of the fall-out of the COVID-19 emergency. Except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the non-development expenditures, as usual saw an increase in all the provinces and at the federal level. In the same realm, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was unparalleled in terms of its planned increase in the education development portfolio, which it enhanced by 46.2 per cent; Sindh and the federal government introduced meager increases of 7.7 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively. Balochistan and Punjab, on the other hand, budgeted huge cuts worth of 23.9 per cent and 16.3 per cent respectively.”

There is however, little justification for this especially after the government itself claimed the feat of a V-shaped recovery. By doing so, the government has also acknowledged that the tide of anticipated financial losses has been reversed. An early and sustained path to economic recovery coupled with international monetary support in turn means that the state does, in fact, have the fiscal space to prioritize development spending on education and other social sector subjects.