Speakers at a seminar organised to highlight the issues in provisioning education in Mianwali district agreed that the situation was dire and that it was poorer still for girls.

The seminar was organised by the Alif Ailaan campaign- funded by the UK Department of International Development.

A press release issued on Tuesday said that the campaign aimed at ending Pakistan’s education crisis by working with politicians, media and the civil society. It also aims at creating awareness about the issues and a commitment to fixing the problems.

Calling attention to the situation, parents, teachers and social activists stressed the need for politicians to make a commitment to ending the education problems.

Speaking at the seminar, former MNA Malik Muhammad Feroz (a potential candidate for provincial assembly) said that education in Pakistan couldn’t be fixed until politicians committed themselves to solving the problem. He said his party saw education as a political issue and realised that it required political will to be fixed.

“This is why education is one of our priorities. We aim to work towards finding a solution rather than just making promises,” he said.

Jamat-i-Islami leader Hafiz Javed Iqbal Sajid (a potential candidate for National Assembly) said that gender disparity in education was a serious concern.

He said, “There is a need to fix education as a whole and to pay special attention to ensuring that barriers to female education are brought down.”

The JI leader said that Pakistan needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

“The clock is ticking,” he added.

He said while a lot of work was being done, there was still need for more. He said if the next government failed to address education issues, a golden opportunity would be missed. He said that his party would strive to ensure that special attention was paid to girls’ education.

Sami Khan of Alif Ailaan said that an urgent solution was needed for the “unfortunate situation” Mianwali was facing.

He said that Mianwali stood 10th among the 36 Punjab districts in terms of school enrolment rate, with an enrolment rate of 68 per cent at primary schools.

Among those who attended school, he said, almost a third dropped out before completing primary level education.

Currently, less than two-thirds of the population in Mianwali district is literate. The situation at secondary level is even more serious with only 24 per cent attending school. The number of girls at school is half that of boys. The dropout rate at primary level for girls is double that of boys.

Quoting from Education Department reports, Khan said that there were more primary schools for girls than there were for boys in the district, but only 66 girls middle schools compared to 95 boys middle schools.

The situation was even worse at higher secondary levels, he added.

“There are only 94 high schools out of which more than two-thirds are for boys and less than a third for girls. The enrolment rate at the secondary level is 16 per cent for girls and 31 per cent for boys.”

He said the quality of education in Mianwali district was also poor. Only one in two of the school going children could read a simple story in Urdu and only a third of the school going children could solve simple mathematics, he said.

Khan said that an increase in education budget was not the only answer.

“Smart allocation and effective monitoring utilisation of fund is needed as well. The new government will have a big task ahead of them. We have high expectations,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2013.

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