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Educating the poor for a better Pakistan

I agree with the letter of Sundus Mujeeb published on April 8 in this newspaper, Educate children, educate the nation. Education is indeed the basic right of each and every individual but has been denied to underprivileged children in the country, although our Constitution states otherwise.

Article 25-A of the Constitution guarantees free education for all children aged between 5 and 16. But the state of Pakistan has failed miserably in mandating it and only caters to private education sectors, which have grown but are beyond the reach of the economically disadvantaged. Around 25 million children are out of school in Pakistan. Many of these children carry the burden of being the breadwinners from an early age. Poverty has pushed them into bondage; we have children working as kiln labours, house servants, waiters and mechanics who are always overworked, underpaid and sometimes physically and sexually abused.

Denying them education is not only the violation of the Constitution but also deprives these children of the prospects of social progress and prosperity as well as economic advantages schooling brings for a country. The public-sector schools available in Pakistan seldom receive adequate funds, simply because children of wealthy, powerful politicians, ruling elite and bureaucrats never enroll there. Hence, children hailing from less affluent backgrounds sit under roofs with peeling plaster, fanning themselves with their notebooks to survive the scorching heat.

Pakistan’s literacy rate is at 58pc much lower than the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) target of 88pc that we were supposed to achieve by 2015. As a signatory to the Millennium Declaration 2000, the government of Pakistan is committed to maximising its progress towards the MDGs — poverty, education, health, hunger and the environment. But achieving a sustainable development without educated citizenry is quite impossible. Pakistan’s global image depends on the excellence of its schools and its ability to educate the children and produce individuals who can generate economic growth.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela and children are called pillars of the nation. These pillars can be stronger only if built with a concrete material, which is education. Let’s help these children before they succumb under the burden of earning a living for their families, by schooling them and helping them financially, so that they can achieve their dreams.

The state of Pakistan must feed and facilitate its citizens, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds.

Arijo, Nazeer. Educating the poor for a better Pakistan. The Express Tribune, April 17, 2017.

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