ISLAMABAD: Education is often among the first casualties in a post-disaster situation and education for girls and the most under-served learners is among the most impacted.
These views were expressed by Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) Chief Executive Officer Zehra Arshad at the 13th Annual Convention in Islamabad on Saturday.
The theme for this year’s convention was ‘Build Back Better: Education Equity during Emergencies and Beyond’.
The coalition partner organisations from all across Pakistan participated in the three-day moot.
During the first two days of the convention, representatives of the grassroots civil society organisations from over 15 districts were informed about ways to support a resilient education system during times of disaster.
The third day of the event was dedicated towards discussions related to policy. The first policy discussion entailed a conversation on ‘Towards a Climate Resilient Education System in Pakistan’.
Khalid Naeem, retired director general of Directorate General of Special Education, Areebah Shahid, executive director, Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA), Ronilda Co, director at DepEd Philippines and Mohammad Ali Kemal, chief of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Unit participated as panelists.
The panel specifically highlighted the issues that make girls, women, and children with disabilities particularly vulnerable during calamities.
“Following intermittent school closures during the pandemic, it is believed that the most affected students experienced a gap of more than two full years of learning losses. The floods – after which more than 22,000 schools have been left damaged or destroyed – have now further aggravated the woes of the most marginalised learners including girls and learners with disabilities,” said Ms Arshad.
“The first response towards education recovery must always begin with providing children with psycho-social support. Unless children are once again made to feel safe, provided with opportunities to create new bonds, they will never be able to move past the post-trauma stress,” shared Areebah Shahid.
“Of the over two million children with disabilities in Pakistan, a mere 100,000 are in schools. This means that over 96pc of such children have no access to learning opportunities,” said Khalid Naeem, while shedding light on the plight of children living with disabilities.
“The only way to change this situation for the better is to ensure that only children with profound disabilities are catered to by special education institutes while the remaining learners are integrated into the general education system,” he added.
Ali Kemal spoke about the importance of building resilient education structures to minimise disruption during disasters. “If we are finally talking about resilient education structures, it is important to understand whether or not we receive donor support for them. They still have to made and there is no other way forward,” he said.
Sharing Philippines’ example, Ms Ronilda emphasised the need for a multi-pronged response.
“We were able to protect our education system from major disruption during calamities by forging partnerships with civil society partners in child protection, education, and climate change. Simultaneously, we brought onboard youth collectives and media. Together these stakeholders formed a rapid response mechanism that comes into action immediately to ensure that children have access to education during emergencies,” she said.
Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2022