November 11, 2023
Islamabad:In a resounding call for national reckoning, Zehra Arshad, the Executive Director of the Society for Access to Quality Education (SAQE) and National Coordinator of the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE), declared a state of emergency for education in Pakistan. With an estimated 25 to 28 million children currently out of school, Arshad asserted, "We, as a nation, no longer have the luxury to treat education with indifference and neglect that consequent governments have meted out in the past."
This stark revelation came at the heart of the 14th Annual Convention hosted by PCE, where civil society, youth, and academia joined forces to address the burgeoning crisis. The gathering culminated in the unveiling of the "Charter of Education," a comprehensive manifesto demanding immediate action to rectify the historical neglect towards education.
Arshad's impassioned plea serves as the rallying cry for a paradigm shift in Pakistan's approach to education. The Charter not only emphasizes the urgent need for political consensus but also calls for tangible commitments from political parties to tackle the colossal challenge. The document pushes for inclusivity, targeting marginalized groups such as girls, children with disabilities, and transgender students.
Beyond the sheer numbers, the Charter delves into the multifaceted issues plaguing the education system, including an underutilized youth bulge, alarmingly high learning poverty, and the impact of the pandemic, which has left a staggering 75% of students facing learning poverty.
The Charter doesn't stop at highlighting the problem; it presents a roadmap for change. Proposals include diverting disaster aid towards education, providing conditional cash transfers to affected households, and enhancing public investment in education. The call for collaboration spans ministries, involving not only the Ministry of Education but also the Ministry of Climate Change to create a resilient education system.
Moreover, the Charter champions the safety of educational institutions, demanding the implementation of existing laws to protect students from harm. It advocates for improved teacher training programs, a shift towards a one-teacher-one-classroom approach, and a curriculum revision to foster critical thinking and 21st-century skills.
As Pakistan stands at the precipice of an educational crisis, Arshad's words echo as a poignant reminder that the nation can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the dire state of education. The Charter of Education serves as a beacon of hope, challenging the status quo and demanding a transformative commitment to secure a brighter future for the nation's children.