World Literacy Day -20 million children are still out of school in Pakistan

 Pakistani state has the responsibility to provide free education to the children of age 5 to 16 years under 1973 constitution 

The Sindh Education and Literacy Department and the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) jointly issued a report in connection with World Literacy Day. The report has revealed that at least 20 million children are still out of school in Pakistan.

A total of 43% of children aged around 10 years, and 45% of children around 15 years are out of school in Sindh, the report states. This represents as much as 28% of these students in urban Sindh and 61% in rural Sindh.

Another report issued by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund last year suggested that Pakistan had the world’s second-highest number of OOSC, with an estimated 22.8 million children out-of-school.

Out of School children (OOSC) are defined as children of school going age that are not going to school. The compulsory range of school going age is stipulated as five to 16 years under article 25-A of the Constitution.

Out of all children in Pakistan between the ages of five to 16 years, 32 per cent, i.e. one third, are out of school. This amounts to an estimated total of over 20 million. Balochistan has the highest proportion of OOSC at 47 per cent followed by Sindh at 44 per cent.

In absolute terms, Punjab has the largest total population of OOSC roughly estimated at 7.7 million followed by Sindh at 6.5 million.

The state made the promise to every child between the ages of five and 16 years of free and compulsory education in the 1973 constitution. The situation is not improving despite efforts made by political parties, civil society organisations, and the media to make education part of the national agenda.  But unfortunately, the situation is not improving since 2010.

The efforts to reduce the number of children out of school have failed to bring desired results so far. The situation hasn’t improved in the last three years of PTI rule. Pakistan now has more than 63 million children between five and 16 years. Out of 63 million, the public schooling system only caters to 27 million (42 per cent), with over 20 million (32 per cent) currently out of school, and over 16 million (26 per cent) enrolled in schools run by the private sector or non-profits, madaris, and non-formal educational institutions.

Nearly 10.7 million boys and 8.6 million girls are enrolled at the primary level and this drops to 3.6 million boys and 2.8 million girls at the lower secondary level.

We need to make a serious effort to reduce the number of children out of school.

                                                           Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy Editor

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