For many people, education has been the key they needed to pursue a life out of poverty. In Pakistan, many children are never given the opportunity to a proper education, or any education for that matter. As of April 19, 2010, the Pakistani constitution has included the new Article 25 A which states, “”The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law.” Of course, the introduction of this act, known as the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2011, is a great first step to providing education to all children, though there are still many obstacles that stand in the way. These obstacles include poverty, religious discrimination, gender inequality, military conflict, and geographic location. (RTE Pakistan)
In 2013 the NGO, UNICEF, reported that there were about 20 million children in Pakistan that do not have access to education, and about 7.3 million are of primary school age, which are the ages of 5-9. (East Asia Forum) Funding also seems to be an issue when it comes to education systems. The Pakistani government has promised on several occasions to spend 4% of the GDP on education but have failed to follow through. It turns out that only 2.68% GDP has been allocated toward education for 2015-2016. (Ary News) Although, there has been somewhat of an increase of budget toward education in past year, though a lot of it is being put into higher education, for those who have already had the privilege of attending school throughout their childhoods.
There are two types of street children in Pakistan: those who sleep on the streets because of no where else to go, and those who have a family and home to return to at the end of a long day of working on the streets. Of the children who do have families, many of them are unable to have the option of schooling because their families require them to work full time to help support the family. Although access to free education is a now a human right under the Pakistani constitution, many areas don’t even have any public school facilities for the children to go to. Parents end up having to pay out of pocket for private schooling which can be unaffordable at times. Parents then need to make the tough decision of choosing which of their children will or will not attend.
One woman from Karachi, Bilqis Khatoon, told her story to the editors of a Pakistan-based blog called “Let Us Build Pakistan.” She was a widow with four children who lived in the slums with no public school in sight. She worked two jobs to send 2 of her children to private school. One ended up having to drop out to work full time in a garment factory, while the oldest of the two was also working 6 hours a day at a market to help her pay for all of his school fees. (Zaidi)
And there’s no doubt that there’s a large gender inequality issue. There are more than one million more girls out of school than there are boys. (LUBP) Many have heard of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who is now seen as a modern heroine. Being an outspoken activist for education for girls, she was shot in the head in 2012 by the Taliban at the age of 15, but survived miraculously with no brain damage. The Taliban believed that she was spreading Western culture by advocating for the education of women. Malala, who is now 18, spoke out about how she and her female schoolmates would show up to school in plain clothes instead of their uniforms so as to not look like students. They would hide their books under their shawls. (Mackey) Terrorism has had a major effect on access to education all around. Many people believe that the Taliban view education as a threat, which is why the Taliban focus energy on destroying schools. They are responsible for the damage of 460 schools in a region in northwestern Pakistan known as FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) that borders Afghanistan. (East Asia Forum)
With so much hatred in the world, and so many stressors weighing down on these children it’s really a relief to hear about all of the NGO’s and programs out there that were made to support these less privileged children. Recently two teenage siblings, ages 12 and 15, decided to set aside time to teach street children for an hour and a half a day, 6 days a week. They decided to take advantage of an empty lot next to a cafe in Karachi to hold the sessions. They teach the children basic math, and English and Urdu reading and writing skills. To keep the children motivated they pay the children 20 rupees at the end of each session as a payment for studying hard. A local teacher found out about the sessions and has also joined the teens in offering her time to teach them. Other locals have decided to support the efforts by offering to bring juice boxes to give to the children. (Salim) Hopefully their efforts can inspire others to take time out of their days to do similar acts.
Street children from Karachi attending free school that was founded by teenagers.
“Pakistan’s Disgrace: The Shocking State Of Its Education System.” Pakistan’s Disgrace: The Shocking State Of Its Education System. East Asia Forum, 30 Sept. 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
“One Million Signature Campaign.” Right To Education Pakistan RTE Pakistan Article 25A. RTEPakistan, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
“Govt Suggested Measures for Spending 4% of GDP on Education.” Ary News. N.p., 18 July 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
Zaidi, Asif. “Pakistan Continues to Perpetuate Inequalities in Education – by A Z.” Let Us Build Pakistan. LUBP, 13 June 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
Mackey, Robert. “Pakistani Activist, 15, Is Shot by Taliban.” The Lede. N.p., 9 Oct. 2012. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
Salim, Yursa. “Bringing Education to the Streets of Karachi – The Express Tribune.” The Express Tribune. N.p., 09 Mar. 2016. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.