KARACHI, Sept 7: Pakistan has the world’s second highest rate of out-of-school children, with Sindh having the worst infrastructure for schools, says a report on children’s status released on Friday.

Almost 25 million children are currently out of school in Pakistan, while seven million of them have yet to receive some form of primary schooling, according to the report, titled ‘The State of Pakistan’s Children Report 2011’, prepared by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc).

The report is a grim reminder of how children’s hopes for a better future are fading in the face of persistent government failure to improve governance.

The subjects touched upon in the report include education, violence against children, child labour, health, minorities, floods and juvenile justice.

Citing the National Education Census 2006 data, the report states that the overall net enrolment ratio in pre-primary education is 43pc — 45pc for males and 40pc for females. “Provincially, the net enrolment ratio is the highest in Punjab with 61pc, followed by Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan with 53pc, 51pc and 47pc, respectively,” it says.

About basic infrastructure for schools, the report says that 65pc schools in the country have drinking water facilities, 62pc have a latrine, 61pc have a boundary wall and only 39pc have electricity.

“Provincially, the worst conditions are observed in Sindh, where 35pc of schools are without building and in many cases without a boundary wall. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Punjab follow with 23pc, 18pc and 10pc, respectively. There are around 30,000 ghost schools throughout Pakistan, which continue to receive government funding,” it says.

Floods

The report also looks into the damage caused by floods to school buildings last year and records 9,800 such schools in Sindh and Balochistan.

Over 410,000 children are out of school due to damaged or occupied buildings or unavailability of teachers, it finds. More than 40,000 children in temporary shelters have no access to education and nearly 729,600 children do not have learning materials.

It says: “Approximately 1,244 schools in Sindh and Balochistan were being used as shelters by flood-affected people.”

Militancy

The report states: “Around 600,000 children of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were reported to have missed one or more years of education due to ongoing militancy. A total of 710 schools have been destroyed or damaged by the militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A total of 640 schools were destroyed in Malakand while 70 institutions were destroyed or damaged in various other districts across the province. In Swat, 121 schools were completely destroyed while another 280 were partially damaged by militants over a span of two years,” it adds.

According to the report, Pakistan has the lowest youth literacy rate with 69pc (11.6m uneducated youths). Only 59pc of females are literate as compared to 79pc of males in the age group of 15-24 years. Trends show that the number of uneducated youth is growing with no substantial efforts to increase the number of and access to technical and vocational institutes and to address gender disparities, it says.

Health status

On children’s health status, it says that Pakistan ranks in the top five countries with the largest number of children under five who are moderately or severely underweight. Forty-three percent children born in Pakistan are afflicted by stunting (low height for age).

“Although full immunisation coverage of children between the ages of 12 and 23 months has increased from 78pc in 2008-09 to 81pc in 2010-11, it is still short of the MDG [millennium development goals] target for Pakistan (90pc for the years 2010-11).

“It is estimated that at the start of 2011, Pakistan was accounting for nearly 30pc of all polio cases recorded worldwide with 197 cases reported from different parts of the country. Eleven out of 152 districts of the country are especially affected by polio including Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and three agencies in Fata,” it says.

Punjab tops in juvenile offenders ranking

On juvenile justice, the report says that the number of juvenile prisoners increased from 1,225 in 2010 to 1,421 in 2011. They include 1,256 under-trial prisoners and 165 convicted juveniles. Punjab had the highest number of juvenile offenders (833), followed by Sindh (318), KP (241) and Balochistan (40).

The report points out that the Public Defender and Legal Aid Office Ordinance Bill and Prisons Amendment Bill dealing with children of incarcerated parents introduced in the National Assembly in 2010 remained pending in 2011.

Regarding cases of physical and sexual abuse, it says that 2,303 instances of sexual abuse were reported in the country last year. The number of reported acid attacks has risen from 65 in 2010 to 150 in 2011. Although men and boys are also victimised, most acid attacks involve women and girls between 15 and 25 years.

Punishments & seminaries

In a survey conducted by Sparc in KP, it was revealed that 76pc parents approved moderate corporal punishment to correct a child’s behaviour. Forty one cases of corporal punishment were reported from Peshawar alone during six months in 2011.

The cases of extreme physical violence against schoolchildren across the country resulted in humiliation, injuries and even death, the study finds.

“A large number of madressahs remain unregistered with government authorities. The absence of government monitoring and regulation in such seminaries allows clerics to administer extreme forms of corporal punishments,” the report says.

Last year 7,000 children were kidnapped in different parts of the country. In Karachi alone, 3,090 of these children were kidnapped. Floods in Sindh and conflicts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata contributed to a surge in kidnapping and trafficking of women and children, the report says.

“In 2011, 250 children died in armed conflicts in different parts of the country. Majority were killed in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Moreover, apart from life threats, the harmful psychological impacts of prolonged conflicts affected thousands of children in the war-torn regions,” it says.

Minorities

The report presents a sorry picture of the conditions children of religious minorities are forced to live in. Last year, 27 Hindu children were kidnapped for ransom in different parts of Sindh. Similarly, 500 Hindu families migrated from Balochistan to India following persecution by extremists.

The primary school enrolment rate of scheduled caste Hindu girl children is only 10.2pc while the national female primary school enrolment rate is 48pc. Poor security situation in Balochistan has forced Hindu parents not to send their children (especially girls) to schools, lowering the school enrolment rate among females in the province.

Following the floods, members of the Dalit community in Sindh were denied access to flood relief camps and even drinking water because of their ‘untouchable’ status, the report says. Ahmadi students have been especially targeted by hate campaigns.

Ten Ahmadi students, including seven girls, and a teacher were expelled from a school in Hafizabad last year on account of their religious beliefs, it adds.

According to the report, 2,000 girls from various minority groups were forcibly converted to Islam last year through torture, rape, kidnapping and forced signing of marriage contracts. Around 300 Hindu girls are forced to convert to Islam every year, it says.


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