Most of us must have read about the education emergency in Pakistan and the first expression of ours is of sorrow which eventually fades away to be engulfed by our usual sense of ‘not my job’. Its time to inspect and reflect upon ‘why is our job too’?
According to the data collected by Pakistan ETF , 1 in 10 school going age children who are not in school, are Pakistani. UNICEF considers Pakistan to be standing at the crossroads of prosperity and utter destruction . U.N. estimates that over 32 percent of the population of Pakistan is ages 10 to 24 . By 2030, the number of young people will have risen to the size of the total population of Pakistan in 1980.
With a population growth like that, we can either follow the examples of China and India, or go down the path of a devastated and anarchic society. India realized the emergency of education in the late 80s and the efforts are now paying off. The latest report by UNESCO about education in countries in conflict zones (by EFA – Education for ALL monitoring report 2011) says that:
“Wider inequalities are restricting opportunity. In Pakistan, almost half of children aged 7 to 16 from the poorest households are out of school, compared with just 5% from the richest households.”
One reason for extremism in our society is the lack of proper education, a gap that is at times filled by Madrissas, which still don’t have a well defined curriculum for primary education and thus many students are at the helm of village molvis, some of them teach anti-social ideologies. There is a direct link between lack of education and terrorism, be it political, religious or economic. A lot has been written on this subject matter and the major conclusion is that its mostly the uneducated youth ending up in the militant’s hands.
The constitution gives the right to education until 16 years of age (recently introduced into constitution through 18th amendment). Elementary education is more crucial than higher education because it gives the youngsters the tools to form their own perspectives about world and make an improvement in the society and fundamentally, be a better human being. While we are still stuck with high school essay topics of “importance of education” the world has moved on to embrace education as a basic right. Teach a youngster to read and he is in a better position to make informed decisions about his own life.
The facts and figures are evident from the ETF’s video:
The importance of education in controlling our burgeoning population is under-rated. For a simple example, consider a family with four kids. The father works two jobs and manages to send the younger three of the kids to school, while the older son has to start working early on to support the family. One of the younger sons is able to finish an undergraduate degree before being forced to find work. He realizes that if they were fewer siblings, he could have had a better future. The cycle continues until all members of that family are educated.
The ETF report compares the challenge facing the education sector to a flood every year, adding: ´The only difference is that this is a self-inflicted disaster´. More facts and figures are available at Pakistaniat, Dawn. Washing our hands clean of it by claiming it to be only the responsibility of the government will not work anymore. Before anyone, this is our country, yours and mine. We have to work together and make a contribution. Notwithstanding the daunting issues faced, this country has given us NUSTians an outstanding education not available to the huge majority of our fellow countrymen.
It´s time to step up and do our share. It´s time to pay our country back in kind.
NUSTians will get a break from studies soon. Here is the time and opportunity to make a difference. Make a team of volunteer students from each part of the country, especially Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan. These teams can spend some time in rural areas and volunteer as teachers. The children in flood devastated regions have lost what little opportunity they had of an education (and a future). Let’s show them that they are not alone.
I am sure our Alumni and NUST management will rise to the occasion and contribute funds to this drive.
(In next post we will cover some examples across the globe on which NUSTians can act upon to contribute to the education emergency in Pakistan. We as alumni will love to support any such venture on part of NUSTians)