Education emergency: 26 million children are out of school in Pakistan

Pakistan has seen a concerning spike in out-of-school children, with the number exceeding 26 million over the last five years, underscoring a grim situation regarding access to education in the country, a Pakistan Institute of Education report released on January 21 revealed.

Number of out-of-school children in Pakistan in 2016-17 was 22.02 million, according to the Pakistan Education Statistics Report for 2021-2022, issued every five years.

The number comprises 39% of all children of school-going age in Pakistan, the report mentions. While the actual number of out-of-school children has increased over the last five years, their percentage has decreased from 44% in 2016-17.

Province wise distribution

“In Pakistan, 26.2 million children are deprived of going to school,” the report said.

  • 11.73 million children are out of school in Punjab
  • Sindh has 7.63 million children deprived of going to school
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has 3.63 million children deprived of formal education
  • Balochistan’s 3.13 million school-going age children are not enrolled in schools

Contributing factors

Poverty, population growth, absence of localized strategies, and economic challenges are identified by experts as the primary factors contributing to the rise in the number of out-of-school children in the country.

“Despite a marginal improvement in school enrolment, the overall increase in population has outpaced this improvement, resulting in a rise in the absolute number of out-of-school children,” Arshad Mirza, a former federal education secretary, told Arab News.

“Education, being a provincial subject, warrants heightened emphasis, with financial sharing among provinces based on enrolment data to serve as both an incentive and a potential quick fix.”

Yasir Dil, an education advocacy specialist, attributed this concerning number of out-of-school children to economic challenges faced by families that force them to prioritize child labor work over education.

“Lack of adequate and equitable financing for education resulted in insufficient and unequal provision of schools, teachers, learning materials and infrastructure, along with socio-cultural barriers and norms that discourage or prevent girls, children with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities, and other disadvantaged groups from attending school,” he said.

Suggestions

A comprehensive and coordinated advocacy strategy is needed at both public and private levels to address these issues, experts say.

  • The government should increase and allocate more resources for education, particularly in the most underserved areas and populations.
  • The private sector should leverage the role of non-state actors, including civil society organizations, private schools, media, and the corporate sector
Salma Khan
Salma writes on topics ranging from education to technology to business. She can be reached at Twitter and Facebook.

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