In Pakistan, teachers have stopped showing up at schools. School buildings are dilapidated and dirty. Public school students sometimes do not have schools to attend. The government says the schools are still open, but in actuality, they are not, according to Naween A. Mangi and Khurrum Anis, writing for Bloomberg.
The government is more at fault for Pakistani students not having education alternatives than are Taliban militants who shot Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai two years ago, say the writers. The number of students attending private schools has risen by 50% in the last decade as the lack of functioning Pakistani public schools is creating one of the world’s highest truancy rates.
“People are rushing to private schools,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, campaign director for Alif Ailaan, an education advocacy group in Islamabad, who added that poor students who can’t afford private school are the ones who suffer most. “The answer isn’t private, private, private. The answer is to fix the government.”
Pakistan is now 113th of 120 countries on the United Nations Education for All list. Spending on education in Pakistan fell for the second year to a low of 2.1%, among the lowest globally. When and if teachers show up at schools again, only ~30% of teachers are college graduates, according to the Annual Status of Education Report.
In rural schools, about half of ten-year-old children can read a story in their native language. Teacher salaries are low, except in elite private schools where highly qualified teachers are likely to hold positions and the standard of education is much better.
Malala’s home has made education a priority since Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came to power last year. It has enrolled 700,000 primary school children, has begun to hire qualified teachers, and is monitoring attendance of students and teachers.
Other states are are taking action as well. Atta-ur-Rahman, a former chairman of the constitutionally mandated Higher Education Commission said:
“The feudal landlords who have ruled over us are determined to keep the people of Pakistan uneducated,” Atta-ur-Rahman said. “This allows them to loot and plunder the national exchequer at will.”
In a remote village, a young, 20-year-old woman sits in front of a boisterous group of young people, cows, and goats. The woman is in the final stages of getting her bachelor’s degree reports NPR. She is the most highly educated person in the village and her mission is to make the village’s children become doctors, teachers, and engineers. The children are Hindu in an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, and the village is poor. There is no electricity, no running water, and the poverty of the village is the worst in the roughly 200 million Pakistan population. The only reason this woman is educated is because she lost a leg at birth because of a medical mistake and could not work in the fields.
She wants to make public the fact that teaching jobs are handed out by officials as political favors. Thousands of these so called “teachers” receive pay, but do not go to work.
“I want to tell Pakistan’s teachers that you have a duty to the nation’s children. Please come to school and teach!”
Liaquat Ali Mirani, a principal in the Sindhi city of Larkana publishes names and pictures of absentee teachers in an effort to shame them back into their classrooms. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) says they are going to fire absentee teachers and make government teachers take a proficiency test. For now, however, the kids in the cattle shed and their teacher will have to remain determined, but also patient.
The crux of the report on “education reforms” in Pakistan, released by the International Crisis Group, says:
“If Pakistan is to provide all children between the age of five and 16 years free and compulsory education, as its law requires, it must reform a system marred by teacher absenteeism, poorly maintained or ghost schools and a curriculum which encourages intolerance and fails to produce citizens who are competitive in the job market.”
Curriculum reform will be necessary, and textbooks and teachers will need to stop conveying intolerance and distortions based on hate, reports Amin Ahmed in an article for the Dawn Media Group.
“The working-age population will continue to grow in a country with so many young people. Without substantial and urgent efforts to improve access to quality schools, illiteracy and poor learning outcomes will result in rising levels of unemployment and under-employment, hampering economic development and – if the most attractive jobs are available with the jihadi forces and criminal groups – contributing to violence and instability.
Nepotism and corruption are rampant, and militant violence and natural disasters have hindered progress. The country has no chance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals of providing universal primary education by 2015.