Earlier this year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the PIA, the national airline that continues to sustain huge losses.
The commission reported that 25 million children in Pakistan do not attend school, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution, and three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson, according to the BBC.
The report added that while rich parents send their children to private schools and later abroad to college or university, a third of all Pakistanis have spent less than two years at school.
Among the key findings of the commission are the following:
* 30,000 school buildings are so neglected that they are dangerous
* 21,000 schools do not have a school building at all
* Only half of all women in Pakistan can read, in rural areas the figure drops to one third
* There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan which still manage to send more of their children to school
* Only 65% of schools have drinking water, 62% have latrines, 61% a boundary wall and 39% have electricity
The report concluded that Pakistan - in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - has no chance of reaching the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015.
What can we do about it as individuals and community?
Here's a story of informal evening schooling for children of Islamabad:
ISLAMABAD, 9 October 2012 (IRIN) - As evening approaches in the centre of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, children gather at a small playground, chatting and laughing. It is a scene played out in countless parks across the country, but the children are not here to play after school - they are here to attend one.
For three hours every evening, free classes run here for anyone who wants to attend, with the idea being that some of the many children who live on Islamabad’s streets, or work in its markets and houses, might benefit.
Mohammad Ayub, who runs the unofficial school, began teaching children whose parents could not afford to send them to school in 1988.
Despite the fact that state-run primary schools do not charge fees and many provide free textbooks, other expenses (such as stationery, uniforms and transportation) mean that for many poor families, schools are unaffordable.
“It became quite popular and many parents who couldn’t afford a meal - forget education - would send their children to my little school in the evenings,” Ayub said.
The school, which relies on volunteers and donations, is one of dozens of informal institutions in the capital which are helping to educate children.
Pakistan has made limited progress in improving the quality and reach of its education system, and millions of children are missing out on schooling altogether in what the governments of Pakistan and the UK have termed an “education emergency”.
Despite making education a fundamental constitutional right in 2010, Pakistan has no chance of fulfilling its Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal education by 2015.
Many of those who have finished Ayub’s informal school in Islamabad have gone on to complete high school and college, and today have jobs they could never have dreamed of. Ayub estimates that 20 percent of the students finish grade 10, with around 10 percent going on to complete degrees at colleges.
Many, like Yasmin Nawaz, a 30-year-old mother of three who graduated from the school in 1994, became teachers themselves.
“I finished middle school, grade 8. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to high school, but Master Ayub said I must,” Nawaz said. “He paid for my textbooks and my exam registration fee, and in return, I taught here at the school. I then taught elsewhere as well.”
Despite the clear return on this investment and Pakistan’s pledge to spend at least 4 percent of its GDP on education, that figure has been decreasing. Education spending today stands at less than 1.5 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, according PETF (Page 67).
There is the issue of governance, there are no accountability mechanisms. For example, even if you do have sufficient teachers - which we don’t - if they are not in school, it is not possible to achieve anything.”
The LEAPS (Learning and Educational Achievement in Pakistan Schools) project and PETF estimate that teachers in government schools, despite being paid more than their private sector counterparts and having greater job security, are not present one-fifth of the time. Government school teachers often use political connections and union action to protect themselves.
“Even if a senior officer reports a teacher that is not performing or not even attending school, it is very difficult to take action because they will involve the unions or go to an MNA [member of the National Assembly],” said Zafar.
“Even if you get that [teacher accountability], the quality of education, of textbooks, is an issue. So all of this needs to be considered, not just what is spent on education, but how.”
Here's a Dawn story on $400 m WB loan for Sind education:
The World Bank will give $400 million for the promotion and development of education in Sindh.
This was stated by country director of World Bank Pakistan Rachid Benmessaoud who called on Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah at the CM House on Monday along with a two-member delegation.
According to a statement issued by the Chief Minister House, Mr Benmessaoud further said that the WB would also help in development of irrigation and agriculture in the province.
The chief minister thanked the World Bank for assistance in various fields, especially in the education, health, agriculture and irrigation sectors.
He assured the WB officials that the provincial government was paying full attention to completion of development schemes on time and as per schedule.
The chief minister said problems in promotion and development of education would be resolved.
He said recruitment of teachers in the education department was being made strictly on merit.
The government had already recruited 16,000 teachers and that 19,000 more teachers would be hired on merit, he added.
He said that educational facilities were being extended in rural and far-flung areas of the province.
Mr Shah said that despite floods and rains over the past three years, there was headway in various fields.
The World Bank country chief appreciated the policy of merit for the recruitment of teachers.
He said the WB wanted to see headway in all sectors.
Sindh finance secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch and additional chief secretary of planning and development Arif Ahmed Khan were also present on the occasion
Imagine sending your children to school and there are no teachers.
You might go to the principal's office to see what's going on and to ask when the staff is likely to return. But the principal is not there either.
When you complain to the local education authorities they promise faithfully that the teachers will be back. While you're at it, you mention that none of the toilets at the school work and that there's no water for the kids to drink. There may not even be any chairs or desks. Or books.
In the U.S. you'd be expecting to wake up about now. You'd realize it was all just an unpleasant dream and walk your children to their nice school complete with teachers, books, desks and working toilets.
But if you were a parent with children in the public school system in Pakistan, you'd never wake from the nightmare.
There are said to be 25,000 "ghost schools" in Pakistan. The teachers all get paid. They just don't see the need to turn up. They don't go to school, so the kids don't either. The result is one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world.
With a population approaching 200 million, Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, but about 54 million are illiterate. While national statistics report that 70 percent of children are enrolled in in primary education, 50 percent drop out before reaching the fifth grade.
According to UNESCO's 2014 report on the state of global primary education, Pakistan has nearly 5.5 million children out of school, the second highest number in the world after Nigeria.
If you have a daughter in Pakistan, the odds are stacked against her going to school at all, especially if you're living in a poor urban slum or a rural area. There remain huge disparities in the levels of literacy between the sexes.
You can't blame the children. The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a non-profit that relies almost exclusively on donations from Pakistani and expat supporters in the U.S. and other countries, runs 1,000 quality schools in the country's worst slums and neglected rural areas. TCF has a long waiting list of parents desperate to get their kids educated.
I recently spent a week visiting TCF schools in Karachi. Immediately outside the school walls, there's abject poverty. Inside the school gates, there are pristine classrooms, computer labs and spotless washrooms. Drinking water is provided to ensure that no child goes thirsty.
This sanctuary could be a snapshot from any classroom in the world -- happy children hanging on their teacher's every word, immune to the stresses of the world outside.
Now working in 100 towns and cities across Pakistan, TCF strives to maintain an equivalent enrollment of girls and boys. This is no mean feat in a nation that has marginalized women even as it elected Benazir Bhutto its prime minister, a height yet to be achieved by an American woman. To sustain this gender ratio, TCF has an all-female faculty, because parents are more likely to send their daughters to schools where the teachers are women.
TCF schools have succeeded where others have failed because they've won the support of communities that have been forgotten and abandoned by the state.
On October 8, TCF in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C., co-hosted a conference titled "Pakistan's Biggest Challenge: Turning Around a Broken Education System", bringing together some of the best minds in education from around the world....