ISLAMABAD: Dr. Kozue Kay Nagata, Director UNESCO Islamabad has said that “Illiteracy in Pakistan has fallen over the two decades, thanks to the government and people of Pakistan for their efforts working toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
“Today, 70% of Pakistani youths can read and write. In 20 years illiterate population has been reduced significantly” she said while speaking at a function held in Lahore in connection with International Literacy day.
However she also emphasized on the need to do more to improve literacy in the country and said “the proportion of population in Pakistan lacking basic reading and writing is too high. This is a serious obstacle for individual fulfillment, to the development of societies, and to mutual understanding between peoples.”
Referring to the recent national survey carried out by the Ministry of Education, Trainings and Standards in Higher Education with support of UNESCO, UNICEF and provincial and areas departments of education Dr. Nagata pointed out that, in Pakistan today, although primary school survival rate is 70%, gender gap still exists with only 68% of girls’ survival rate compared to 71% for boys. Specifically in the case of Punjab, she said, primary school survival rate today is better with 76%, but not without a gender gap of 8 percent points with 72% girls’ survival rate compared to 80% for boys. She also pointed out the better average per student spending in primary level (age 5-9) in Punjab, i.e. Rs. 6998, compared to the national average.
In Balochistan, although almost the same amount (Rs. 6985) as in Punjab is spent per child, the primary school survival rate is only 53%. Girls’ survival rate is slightly better with 54% than that of boys which is 52%.
The data of the survey shows that in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, primary school survival rate is 67% which is lower than the national average of 70%. Furthermore, gender gap also exists with only 65% of girls’ survival rate compared to that of boys which is 68%. Per student education expenditure in primary level (age 5-9) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is Rs. 8638.
In Sindh primary school survival rate is 63%, with a gender gap of only 67% of girls’ survival rate compared to 60% for boys. Per student education expenditure in primary level (age 5-9) in Sindh is Rs. 5019.
Dr. Nagata made reference to the survey report and mentioned that the most common reason in Pakistan for children (both boys and girls) of age 10 to 18 years leaving school before completing primary grade is “the child not willing to go to school”, which may be related to quality and learning outcome. She said, however, and sadly, for the girls living in rural communities the second highest reason for dropout is “parents did not allow” which might be related to prejudice and cultural norm against girls.
A total of 21 events (2 seminars in Karachi, 3 seminars in Lahore, 2 in Quetta, 2 seminars in Peshawar, 1 Literacy Walk each in Islamabad and Peshawar, 1 seminar each in Sialkot, Muzaffergarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Multan and Hafizabad (Punjab), and 1 seminar each in 5 districts of Balochistan, namely in Pishin, Ziarat, Nushki and Qilla Saifullah, are being organized by relevant stakeholders with UNESCO’s support. These events include advocacy campaigns on LED digital screens (electronic hording boards) in Islamabad, literacy walks, seminars, speeches and arts competitions, and seminars of the teachers’ associations. About 9 events are being organized in the rural communities in order to mobilize the communities to send their young children (boys and girls) to schools.