Survey of urban slums exposes dark underbelly of two cities

Published November 18, 2021
These boys in a slum near Nagan Chowrangi seem unfazed by the misery that surrounds them. — Fahim Siddiqi/White Star/File
These boys in a slum near Nagan Chowrangi seem unfazed by the misery that surrounds them. — Fahim Siddiqi/White Star/File

KARACHI: Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and its flagship programme ASER Pakistan launched its first pilot report on Learning quality in Katchi Abadis of Pakistan on Wednesday.

ITA supported by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) undertook this first project for a learning and accountability survey in urban slums comprising four districts of Pakistan — three districts of Karachi, West, Korangi, Malir and one district of Lahore — in May 2021.

The survey includes a total of 114 katchi abadis, reaching out to 2,275 households, 2,285 mothers and 6,411 children (aged three-16).

While sharing some of their key findings, CEO of ITA Baela Raza Jamil said that they had collected data, which could now help the authorities concerned to take action or see how to remedy the issues that had come out as a result of the initial survey.

Extremely challenging living conditions found in katchi abadis amid bleak educational outlook

Through her presentation, she showed the extremely challenging living conditions in katchi abadis where there was water shortage and problems with the drainage system. “Deprivation of entitlements to water, sanitation and hygiene extend to lack of adequate educational facilities in katchi abadis. At least 20 per cent of the surveyed katchi abadis in each district have no government schools.

Contrary to perceptions that residents are transient in katchi abadis, over 56 per cent population inhabitants have lived in the same settlements for more than a decade or equal to a 10-year education cycle, she said.

Coming to enrolment of children in whatever schools there are in the surveyed katchi abadis, Ms Jamil said that more children were enrolled in private schools (59pc) including madressahs and non-formal education while 41pc were enrolled in government schools.

“The enrolment increases significantly from the age of five, reaching its peak at the age of 10. About 30pc or one in three children of 16 years old is out of school. Government school enrolment is higher in Lahore at 59pc while private school enrolment is highest in Korangi, also at 59pc,” she said.

“The enrolment in madrassahs is eight per cent. It’s significantly higher in katchi abadis than trends observed in the regular ASER national surveys (1.5-2.5pc). While Korangi, Lahore and Malir’s madrassah enrolment is 2.6pc, 2.1pc and 2.5pc, respectively, Karachi-West has 24pc of katchi abadis students or one in four children enrolled in madrassahs,” she pointed out.

Looking at the learning outcomes of katchi abadi children, she said that the recent ASER 2021 Covid-19 study in 16 rural districts revealed statistically significant learning losses. Further findings brought out contributing factors in the current situation such as household earning or wealth, parents’ education, technology available for usage, etc.

Panel discussion

A panel discussion that followed the presentation had experts air their views regarding the pilot report.

Bureaucrat Waseem Ajmal said that that the report tells you how demographic changes effect the system of education.

“It also provokes you to come up with solutions for children facing specific demographic challenges,” he said.

Agreeing with the findings of the report, special secretary of the Punjab school education department Dr Suhail Shahzad said that many existing urban schools were functioning on rural frameworks.

Resident Representative of UNDP Pakistan Knut Ostby said that Covid-19 had impacted children due to school closures and that the report was a timely effort in this situation. “It would have an impact on learning,” he said.

Kim Bradford Smith, Education Team Lead, FCDO Pakistan said that the report was a worthy data with real value. “It will pave the way for quality education as it is a wealth of evidence for FCDO. It clearly shows there is significant inequality in learning in areas and living conditions,” she said.

Member Education, P&D Department, Government of Punjab, Khalid Sultan, said that the problems highlighted in the report were really the tip of the iceberg. “It is valuable data for helping children in Pakistan,” he said.

Muhammad Toheed of the Karachi Urban Lab also said that katchi abadis were a neglected part of society. “They show a disconnect between authorities and the communities. There is also a problem there with documentation and enrolment processes,” he said.

He also added that the Gujjar and Orangi Nullah demolition and displacement was also increasing the dropout rate in schools here.

Omar Masud and Mohammad Saleem Jalbani also spoke.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2021

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