ISLAMABAD — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai made huge contributions towards universal education in Pakistan. However, her work there is not complete. The damage done to the education system by the Taliban is still not repaired. Government officials are apathetic and do not try to protect or reform what is an ineffectual education system.
Education in Pakistan is in a dismal state. Roughly 25 million children are not attending school. Those that are attending school do not receive a good education. Pakistan’s Annual Status of Education Report showed that half of 10-year-olds in Pakistan have the linguistic abilities of a six-year-old. In arithmetic, 10-year-olds scored at a seven-year-old level.
The Taliban is largely responsible for this. It has been dedicated to restricting education access to children, especially girls. It has destroyed schools, intimidated parents into keeping their girls out of school and attacked teachers. Human Rights Watch documented its activities between January 2007 and October 2016. During that time, 900 schools for girls were closed, 120,000 girls stopped attending school, and 8,000 female teachers were forced to give up teaching. The Global Terrorism Database recording a total of 867 attacks on schools during this time, with 392 deaths and 724 injuries.
After the infamous attack on Yousafzai that killed 135 children, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a 20-point plan to deal with terrorism. However, none of those points dealt with protected schools and education. This demonstrates the apathy that many politicians have toward education. According to Pakistani columnist Mosharraf Zaidi, schools are often poorly built with little protection. The security of schools has largely been left to provincial governments, and their efforts have been sporadic.
It’s not that the government isn’t spending large amounts of resources on education in Pakistan. In fact, most provinces have doubled their education budgets in the past five years. In 2016, Pakistani provinces spent an average of 14 percent of their budgets on education, which is a total of $7.5 billion nationally.
Yet, for all this spending, students aren’t learning anything. In 2016, the Sindh province spent 12 times as much on teacher’s salaries than it did in 2010, yet their fifth graders couldn’t even read at a second-grade level.
The reason for this is that Pakistan spends very little energy actually improving its education system. There is little accountability on the local level. Teachers are rarely fired. In Sindh, 40 percent of its teachers don’t show up to work. In some instances the teachers don’t even live in the towns they are designated to teach. Private schools pay teachers five times less and have much lower education requirements. Despite this, students in private schools test two grades ahead of their public school counterparts.
For education in Pakistan to improve, the countries citizens need to demand accountability. They need to demand that politicians keep their schools safe and that education professionals are kept accountable.
– Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax