ISLAMABAD: Only one in four children, who enrol in school in the first grade make it to grade 10. In 2002-03, 2,833,726 children enrolled in the first grade. But by 2011-12, only 718,945 remained in school.

In their latest report, titled Broken Promises: the crisis of Pakistan’s out-of-school children, education campaigners Alif Ailaan estimate that nearly half of all children who enrol in school in the first grade have dropped out by the time they get to the fifth grade.

The report also looks at the wider issue of out-of-school children (OOSCs) in Pakistan, and, seeking to dispel confusion around the actual number, looks at data from various sources in order to come up with a ballpark figure of 25 million.

• Alif Ailaan report highlights ‘dropouts’ as a major stumbling block to promoting universal education in the country • Most girls drop out because they need to help out at home; many boys stop going to school due to lack of interest

This figure is closest to the National Education management Information System’s estimate and paints a bleak picture of the state of education in the country.

Talking to Dawn, Rawalpindi Deputy District Education Officer Mohammad Ikhlaq said, “There are three major reasons for the rising dropout rate: in consistency of policies, poverty and a shambolic education infrastructure.”

Explaining the impact inconsistent policies have on education, he recalled that under military ruler Ziaul Haq, Roshni schools were introduced to educate out-of-school children and adults, while under the next government, led by the Pakistan People’s Party, adult education was made a priority and dropouts were ignored.

The report also lays out reasons why children drop out of schools. Among girls, the need for hands to help with housework appears to be the top factor; while most boys are unwilling to go to school because they are simply not interested. This may be due to a lack of interest in the curriculum or unpleasant experiences with corporal punishment at the hands of teachers.

However, since Alif Ailaan do not conduct any primary research of their own and rely on secondary data available from official or reliable sources, the report does not look too deeply into the qualitative side of the matter and does not extrapolate regarding the motivation behind dropouts in any great detail.

“This is indeed an alarming situation. We must act swiftly to control the spiralling dropout rate. A poorly managed system of examinations and teachers’ maltreatment of students are some of the main reasons why children don’t want to go to school,” said Azmat Israil, a Rawalpindi-based school teacher.

“Expressing a commitment to universal enrolment has become easy for politicians. No one denies the problem exists but without knowing the scale of the problem, how can you solve it,” asked Saman Naz, Alif Ailaan Data and Evidence Manager and a co-author of the study.

— Text by Kashif Abbasi, Infographics courtesy Alif Ailaan

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2014



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