NCRC Urges Immediate Action to Tackle Pakistan’s Out-of-School Children Crisis Surpassing 26.2 Million

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KARACHI: With more than 26.2 million children out of school in Pakistan, the country ranks among the highest globally in terms of out-of-school children.

Sindh, specifically, faces a significant challenge, with over 7.6 million children not attending any educational institution.

These alarming statistics were revealed during the Sindh Provincial Consultation on Free and Compulsory Education, a collaborative effort by the National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) and the School Education and Literacy Department, Government of Sindh, held at the Reforms Support Unit on Friday.

The meeting, chaired by NCRC Chairperson Ayesha Raza Farooq, witnessed the participation of representatives from the government’s education department, civil society organizations, international bodies like UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), along with private school representatives.

The NCRC Chairperson emphasized the critical state of education in Pakistan, stressing that education is not merely a right but a fundamental pillar for the nation’s progress. Despite government efforts to raise awareness about rights and violations, Pakistan grapples with the highest number of out-of-school children.

With more than 40 percent of the population comprising children aged below 18 years, the Chairperson underscored the urgency of addressing this issue to curb child labour and promote educational advancement.

“We are at a crossroads where the future of our children and our country is at stake,” said the Chairperson.

“If these children are in schools, they are shielded from child labour. We must explore actionable measures and extend support to provincial governments to ensure that children progress beyond primary education.”

Highlighting the disproportionately high dropout rates among girls, the Chairperson called for a collective effort to alter this trajectory, asserting, “For Pakistan to move forward, we must educate our children.”

Junaid Samoon, Chief Program Manager of the Reform Support Unit (RSU), echoed the Chairperson’s concerns, referencing Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals and underscoring the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2013, which mandates compulsory education for all children.

Mr. Samoon also highlighted the salient features of the Sindh Education Sector Plan & Roadmap (SESP&R) for 2019-2024, noting Sindh’s pioneering role in conducting a private school census.

In another presentation, Mr. Qamar Shahid Siddiqui of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities outlined the provincial government’s efforts to provide education to children with special needs.

Other Sindh government officials addressed challenges faced by schools, including furniture shortages, book scarcities, the transition from primary to secondary education, and the high proportion of budget allocated to teachers’ salaries.

Critical issues such as malnutrition and the need for STEAM education were also discussed, alongside the devastating impact of floods in 2022 and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants also highlighted the low rate of birth registration, particularly in rural areas.

In his welcome remarks, NCRC member Mr. Pirbhu Satyani explained the meeting’s purpose, emphasizing that similar discussions are being held across all four provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory.

He highlighted that the foundation of education sector plans is laid on Article 25-A of the Constitution, which guarantees Free and Compulsory Education for All.

These plans aim to provide implementation guidelines, focusing on improving access, retention, and equity in education, enhancing its quality, improving governance and management, and monitoring and evaluating educational programs.

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