ISLAMABAD: It is alarming that 44pc of the country’s children are not attending schools and this problem requires urgent attention of the government.

This was pointed out by President Arif Alvi during a seminar organised by the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS) and Pakistan Teachers Forum (PTF).

Half of the child population aged five to 16 was at the risk of engaging in labour or begging, he said, adding that education is the right of every child guaranteed under the country’s Constitution.

President Alvi said with only 68pc of children getting primary education, the country lagged far behind other South Asian nations including India, 100pc; Sri Lanka, 99pc and Bangladesh, 98pc.

He stressed that it was the collective responsibility of the government, legislators, the elite, civil society and the general public to take steps for the promotion of education.

He said Pakistan could achieve remarkable development with a specific focus on education and health.

In this regard, he called for setting priorities and taking effective decisions on the policies relating to matters of public interest.

Dr Alvi said incentives such as school feeding programmes for students and disbursement of cash to parents on their children’s attendance could encourage the underprivileged population to get education.

He expressed confidence that bright young minds could bring laurels to the country if provided a level-playing field in areas, particularly education and health.

The president stressed on equal opportunities for girls and women to acquire education at par with their male counterparts.

Parliamentary Secretary for Education Aamir Ashraf Khawaja said the economy had a significant link with education and pointed out that lack of investment in education, health and agriculture resulted in a big lag in development for the country.

He said the federal government was striving to address the challenge of imparting education to out-of-school children through incentives such as school feeding programmes.

On tele-learning, he said, four channels were being launched through Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) besides a mobile application for accelerated learning.

Chairperson of PTF Senator Fauzia Arshad, also an educationist, said the unfortunate challenge of out-of-school children was not only an educational crisis but also a violation of human rights.

She emphasised on measures including inclusive education, learning programmes and persuading parents to send their children to schools.

In a span of three years, she said, the PTF as a social welfare organisation of education professionals had entered into various accords of collaboration with the education ministry, Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

PIPS Executive Director Mohammad Anwar said that besides training of national and provincial assemblies, the launch of international courses was also on the cards.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2023

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