CHIEF JUSTICE Asif Khosa seems to have taken a special interest in the state of the country’s education sector, castigating governments for their failure to fulfil their constitutional duty of providing an education to all children between the ages of five and 16. On Wednesday, he warned of an impending national crisis with millions of children out of school, and unable to access quality education. There are several reasons why so many Pakistani children are out of school; nearly all stem from poverty and issues of access. First, there are simply not enough government schools in the country to accommodate everyone. Many children have to travel long distances to get to school, particularly in the rural parts. If transport is not provided by the school and parents do not have the time to accompany them or the means to arrange for the commute, families see no other choice but to pull the child out of school. Most government schools that exist are at the primary level. Secondary and tertiary schools are even fewer, and the distance to reach them greater. In contrast, there are private madressahs in practically every street.
Second, while public education may be free of cost, there are added expenses that are not covered, such as uniforms, bags, stationery, etc. Even if these costs are not high, it adds up in large families with many children. Children also drop out of school if the quality of teaching is poor, or if they feel discriminated against by authority figures, or if corporal punishment persists. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah recently pointed to mediocre teaching, and recommended compulsory workshop training sessions. The rise of private schools has exacerbated societal inequalities and resentments, and allowed the state to abdicate its responsibility of providing quality education. With the budget to be announced soon, it remains to be seen whether or not the PTI government, which has always propagated a strong social agenda, will live up to its promise.