PM vows to get 26m out-of-school children enrolled

Published May 9, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the National Conference on Education Emergency in Islamabad on May 8, 2024. — PID
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the National Conference on Education Emergency in Islamabad on May 8, 2024. — PID

• Declares education emergency in country
• Unicef official says 70pc kids can’t read, understand text

ISLAMABAD: Declaring an education emergency in the country, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday vowed to get around 26 million out-of-school children enrolled and promote literacy so that the motherland could regain its lost space and transform it as one of the most educated societies in the world.

“Today, with iron conviction, and the support of provinces, we will handle the challenge of 26m out-of-school children. We will bring them back to school…I declare from this moment an Emergency in Education all over Pakistan…The way we did it in Punjab, we will do it in Pakistan,” the prime minister said addressing the National Conference on Education Emergency.

“I will personally supervise the programme and meet all the chief ministers, irrespective of their political affiliations, with a vision to march in unison, expressing the hope that the provinces too would extend their support,” the PM said.

The event was attended by federal ministers, parliamentarians, vice chancellors, diplomats and development partners.

“This is about our children and our future… This is a very challenging task, no doubt. But nations which had faced difficulties and defeat in the past arose from the ashes of defeat. Germany and Japan are the examples. Why can’t Pakistan be? I guarantee, if we move in unison to find our space, Pakistan will emerge as one of the most educated societies one day,” he added.

The premier said the enrollment of 26m out-of-school children and stunted growth were major challenges facing Pakistan which required huge financial resources. “But the real challenge is the will to do,” he said, recalling Pakistan’s manifestation of the commitment to becoming a nuclear power despite international pressures, and eliminating terrorism by sacrificing around 80,000 lives to establish peace in the country.

In his address, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said the education sector needed immediate actions and urgent responses as Pakistan stood at the crossroads of destination with no option to lose.

“The statistics of education in Pakistan are disturbing, alarming and disheartening. More than 26m children are out of school. This number is greater than the population of 150 countries in the world,” he added.

Unicef representative in Pakistan Abdullah A. Fadil said over 70 per cent of children aged 10 in Pakistan could not read or understand text. Despite constitutional guarantees, education in Pakistan was neither yet compulsory nor free, he regretted.

He said through enhanced investment in education and young people, Pakistan could regain its lost stature as the first Nobel laureate in physics belonged to Pakistan and that the country also recently sent a space mission to moon.

British High Commissioner in Islamabad Jane Marriott said Pakistan with 60pc population under 30 years of age was at a crossroads to make tough choices.

She said the conference called for urgent actions like enhanced funding, inclusivity, multiple shifts schools and retaining the children, and assured her country’s all-out cooperation to make Pakistan achieve the goal.

World Food Programme Country Director Coco Ushiyama, in her video message, said food security and education went hand in hand and school meal was one of the best programmes to invest in the country’s future.

World Bank Vice President Martin Raiser said Pakistan was faced with 40pc children having stunted growth and the ratio was around 60pc in poor districts.

Mr Raiser said as Pakistan’s education system was vulnerable to climate change, it was a must to invest in climate resilience.

Pakistan’s fastest mountaineer Naila Kiani, in her video message from Makalu Mountain, said she had been able to achieve her dreams just because of self-belief and education. She requested the prime minister and chief ministers to allocate more resources for girls’ education to help them materialise their dreams.

Meanwhile, chairing a separate meeting on Wednesday, PM Shehbaz directed the authorities concerned to immediately initiate the process of establishing the Pakistan Skill Company and Pakistan Skill Development Fund to unify the technical and vocational education countrywide and provide better employment to Pakistani workers abroad.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2024

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