By. Ibrash Pasha
The start of the new millennium was evident of some very good progress in terms of the states commitment towards the improvement in their citizen’s lives. First it was the Education For All- EFA world education conference in Dakar Senegal in April 2000 agreed by 164 governments, which decided on the 6 goals. Later in September 200, the United Nations, in its millennium summit, decided on the 8 goals for the reduction in poverty, health care, education, environment etc. Both the EFA and MDGs were seriously taken by many countries of the world and proper plans have been chalked out by the states and donor organizations to improve the conditions of human development under these goals. In education this was not the first kind of international summit there was another world education conference in March 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand. This conference was attended by 150 countries and 155 non governmental organizations. In this conference the goals decided were; 1) universal access to learning; 2) a focus on equity; 3) emphasis on learning outcomes; 4) broadening the means and the scope of basic education; 5) enhancing the environment for learning; and 6) strengthening partnerships by 2000.
The history of the world education movement goes back to 1964, when after the World War II, UNESCO chalked out a plan under the title “Karachi Plan” for universalizing the primary education in Asia by 1970s. The motivation for developing and agreeing on such plan was the result of the rigorous achievements of the socialist block in the field of literacy and education particularly in universalization of primary education. The case of Soviet Union; to achieve the almost literacy by 1960 and similarly the Chinese, Vietnamese and Cuban progress. In Asia South Korea and Taiwan had already achieved the universalization of education at primary levels at that time.
Unfortunately we had very little achieved from these international movements to universalize the primary education and literate the masses. In its National Education Policies, Pakistan has been specifying measures to achieve the literacy and universalization of the primary education. Pakistan has never achieved it goals in terms of inputs like the establishment of schools and educational facilities nor it has achieved the targets set in its development plan and policies. Bangladesh, once it was Pakistan has significantly achieved the targets of gender parity and achieved the universal primary education. Currently Pakistan has 7 million children out of school, by making Pakistan the second largest country having out of school children after Nigeria. The Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province has more than 6 lakh children of age 5 to 9 years; are out of schools, with 92% girls. The statistics reveal that although Khyber Pukhtunkhwa has made some good progresses in the universal primary education but it has still to do a lot to enroll about 6 lakhs girls of the primary school going age, especially in rural areas.
Universalization of the primary education in KP, being the focus of this article. At the moment we are not discussing the whole of the Education for All-EFA, which include adult education, universal primary education, early childhood education and quality of education. Let’s see the progress of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa in Universal Primary Education- UPE in the past more than a decade. In year 2000 the number of primary schools in the province were 21376, in which the boys schools were 14531 (68%) and for girls 6845 (32%). The enrollments in these primary schools were 2029317 students, in which the boys were 1414751 (70%) and 614566 (30%). This shows that when the MGDs and EFA goals were being agreed by the Pakistani government the gender gap was very high. Later on some progress was made by initiating some of the projects like Elementary Education Foundation, the NCHD, Non formal schools under the federal ministry of education like NEF/literacy commission and community/ non formal schools established and run by various non government organizations in the inaccessible and remote areas, for the under privileged and disadvantaged communities. Year 2005 was the target year for the elimination of the gender disparity from education at primary level. In 2005 the number of primary schools in the province were 22183, in which 14600 were for boys (66%) and 7583 were for girls (34%). The enrollment in these schools were 2413228 students, in which 1610024 were boys (67%) and 803204 were girls (33%). This year Khyber Pukhtunkhwa unfortunately did not achieved the gender parity in primary education in terms of enrollment, facilities, schools, teachers etc.
Now as the millennium development goals (MDGs) and the Education For All-EFA target year is speedily approaching, lets see the current situation of education in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. The population of the school going 5-9 years age children in province is 4521271, in which boys are 2347173 and 2178098 are girls. The total primary schools are 22760 in which 14819 are for boys (65%) and 7941 are for girls (35%). The enrollment is 2838847 in which 1588111 are boys (55%) and 1250736 are girls (44%). The students enrolled in the private and non government schools are 974223 in which 652245 are boys (67%) and 321978 are girls (23%). Similarly according to the official sources of the KP education department some 75305 children are studying in madrassa with the breakup of 61077 boys (82%) and 12228 girls (18%). After calculations the children enrolled in the government primary schools, private/ non formal schools and madrassas are 3887375 students in which boys are 2301433 are boys (60%) and 1585942 are girls (40%). The out of school children are 633896 in which 45740 are boys (8%) and 588156 are girls (92%).
One can see very good progress in the number of the both genders enrolled in the primary schools. But still to enroll these children in schools some 2500 schools are required. While taking the current and previous years education plans and budgets, almost 100 primary schools are being constructed annual across the province. 100 schools annually is a very little number. These schools can only accommodate about 25000 out of school children annually. On the other hand we have seen the destruction of more than a thousand schools in the earthquake, about thousand schools in the militancy and floods. The reconstruction of these destroyed schools still remains a hectic job for the government. Similarly the current education budget has a couple of new other projects under the title Iqra Firogh Taleem and Story Pukhtunkhwa, for which an allocation of 500 million and 800 millions is made respectively. According to these project students will be admitted in the private schools by paying their fee through vouchers. These programs can only accommodate 20833 students @ Rs. 2000 per month and 33000 @ Rs. 2000 per month making 53833 students. These two initiatives are also gaining growing criticism of privatization of education sector. The public sector which has a very vast experience, knowledge, has its own strong network and presence at the ground can give a better alternate to these private institution with a very low cost sustainable education system. If government could start second shift schools for different categories, like where there is only one school the morning shift can be used for girls and the after noon for the boys students. Also introduce the co-education system at primary level with female teachers. Third could be the model schools in the after noon for the poor, orphans, disabled and intelligent students. Such second shift school will cost Rs. 1 million per year to educate 200 students. By making all the Rs. 1.3 billion of the both projects i.e. Iqra Firogh Taleem and Story Pukhtunkhwa about 1000 schools can be started accommodating 2 lakh students @ 200 students per school. If this amount is doubled next year the enrollment could be doubled and these 6 lakh children who are out of school can be brought into the schools with less expenses on buildings constructions, other capital costs of furniture’s, libraries etc.
After the 18th constitutional amendment, the education policy, plan, finances, curriculum and supervision are now devolved to the provinces. Many of the education components are moved to provinces except the MDG, EFA, CRC and other international commitments, treaties and bilateral agreements, still remained the federation role in the international interface. Provinces have freedoms in formulation of education policies in the light of province needs and issues. Similarly the good practices can now be easily adopted across the province. KP province has the autonomy to do the structural changes in the education and legislate for the provision of education as a fundamental right of the citizens agreed in this amendment and improve the literacy rate of the province from 37% to a much higher level.
(The writer is a development professional, education campaigner, peace and human right activist working in KP and FATA. He can be reached at email@example.com )