Lost to education

Published September 3, 2022

AMONG other things, the ongoing floods have dealt a deadly blow to the educational prospects of millions of children across the country. According to an estimate provided by the Sindh education minister, around 2m children in the province could drop out of school on account of the widespread damage to the education infrastructure in the 16 most affected districts. With the addition of these 2m out-of-school children, the total number of such children in the province will rise to more than 8m — a massive increase. In this regard, the provincial education minister’s announcement that an ‘education emergency’ has been imposed in the province and that the authorities plan to set up tent schools so that children can keep up is a welcome move as the measures, if honestly implemented, could help curtail educational losses.

However, given the PPP-ruled Sindh government’s past performance in the education sector, it is difficult not to be sceptical. From accusations of corruption in teachers’ appointments, to the existence of ghost schools, poor resource management and the recent closure of scores of schools for being ‘unfeasible’, education indicators in the province have shown little improvement over the decades. Moreover, research also shows that even the pouring of more and more funds each year by the provincial government into the sector has had little impact in terms of improving students’ enrolment or learning outcomes. Estimates suggest that more than 44pc of the child population (the five- to 16-year category) in Sindh remain out of the education framework. That it took the authorities a massive natural calamity to declare an education emergency smacks of politics, considering that for decades, experts and rights organisations had been raising the alarm over the poor standard of education and asking the provincial government to take corrective steps. Even so, the authorities now have a chance to redeem themselves by keeping their promise and helping millions of affected children — whose education had already suffered on account of the Covid-19 pandemic — go back to school.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2022

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