ISLAMABAD: Half of Pakistan’s child population aged between five to 16 is at risk of engaging in labor or begging, as President Dr Arif Alvi revealed that as many as 22.8 million children not attending schools.
Addressing a seminar on out-of-school children, he said that education was the right of every child guaranteed by the religion and the country’s constitution. The seminar – organized by the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS) and the Pakistan Teachers Forum (PTF) – discussed the issues and way forward to address the challenge of out-of-school children.
Dr Arif Alvi pointed out that with only 68 percent of children in the category of primary education, Pakistan lagged far behind other South Asian nations, including 100 percent in India, 99 percent in Sri Lanka and 98 percent in Bangladesh. He said that it was collective responsibility of the government, legislators, elite, civil society and the general public to take steps at their ends for the promotion of education.
He said that Pakistan could achieve remarkable development by laying specific focus on education and health. In this regard, he called for setting priorities and taking effective decisions on policies relating to matters of public interest. He suggested incentives for underprivileged population such as school feeding programs for students and cash for parents on their children’s attendance.
The president expressed confidence that the bright young minds could bring laurels to Pakistan if provided a level-playing field in areas, particularly education and health. He stressed equal opportunities for girls and women to acquire education at par with their male counterparts.
Federal Secretary for Federal Education and Professional Training Amir Ashraf Khawaja said the economy had a significant link with education and pointed out that lack of investment in education, health and agriculture resulted in a big lag in development for the country.
He said that the federal government was striving to address the challenge of imparting education to out-of-school children through incentives such as school feeding program. On tele-learning, he said that four television channels were being launched through Allama Iqbal Open University besides a mobile application for accelerated learning.
Pakistan Teachers Forum Chairperson Senator Fauzia Arshad said that the unfortunate challenge of 22.8 million out-of-school children that constituted 44 percent of the child population aged 5-16 years was not only an educational crisis but also a violation of human rights. She emphasized measures, including inclusive education, learning programs and persuading parents to send their children to schools.
In a span of three years, she said that the Pakistan Teachers Forum as a social welfare organization of education professionals had entered into various accords of collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services Executive Director Muhammad Anwar said the institute established in 2008 focused on the orientation of legislators and training of parliamentary officers. Besides training of national and provincial assemblies, he mentioned that the launch of international courses was also on the cards.