ISLAMABAD: Although every elected government promises to prioritise education if given the opportunity, Pakistan has a long way to go to achieve “education for all”. The number of out-of-school children remains a daunting challenge to overcome as is achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 – quality education for all.
This was stated by Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN) Chief Operating Officer Khaleel Ahmed Tetley. “Education for all is the first step to nation-building,” he added.
There are around 279,423 out-of-school children in 74 union councils of Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Jamshoro and Tando Mohammad Khan districts of Punjab and Sindh. Out of these numbers, the majority is of girls, i.e. 146, 201, according to a recent survey conducted by RSPN.
All four of these districts are placed very low in the national education ranking according to the Alif Ailaan 2017 Education Report, which is why RSPN has selected them to start its “Demanding Access to Quality Education” campaign with.
As part of the campaign, RSPN has taken up the task to enrol at least 25% of the total amount – 70,000 – children back to school with the support of its implementing partners; National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) and Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP).
The yearlong advocacy campaign started in June 2018 and will end in June 2019. Along with that, it is working to get the government and policymakers to provide improved school facilities by advocating the right to free and quality education for children between the ages of 5-16 years through Article 25-A.
The facilities sought by RSPN include furniture, boundary walls, electricity, water, toilets and sewerage.
There are around 150 non-functional schools out of a total of 744 in Jamshoro and 218 non-functional schools out of a total of 893 in Tando Mohammad Khan. These alarming numbers from Sindh show that one of the biggest causes of out-of-school children is non-functional schools.
One distinctive feature of the districts chosen is also that two major officeholders from the current government have a close link to these areas.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar belongs to Dera Ghazi Khan where 29,295 children are out of school in 8 union councils of the district whereas Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was born in Sehwan Sharif, Jamshoro district, where the number of out-of-school children is dangerously high and lies at 105,082.
Shah belongs to the political party that has been ruling Sindh for the past one decade, making his government accountable and putting a greater responsibility on them to fulfil the promises made to the people.
RSPN has taken the initiative after successfully implementing the first phase of the campaign from June 2017 to June 2018 in 48 union councils of six districts, including Rajanpur, Bahawalpur, Kashmore, Jacobabad, Kohistan and Battagram. The successful campaign by RSPN managed to make considerable positive impacts in the areas with a total enrollment of 33,436 out-of-school children and 446 school improvements worth Rs100 million. It achieved increased enrollment through an extensive community education and mobilisation campaign in target districts.
The same process is being implemented in the current phase to generate data and RSPN hopes to get 400 school improvements this time while using the same strategies more efficiently.
The vision of RSPN is to empower the community as much as it becomes aware of its rights and gathers the confidence to demand them.
These campaigns are short-lived with a limited time span, but leave a long-lasting impact.