Literacy blues and Pakistan
June 2008: According to the latest EFA (Education For All) Global Monitoring Report
adult literacy rate in developing countries increased from 68 percent to 77
percent between the period 1985 to 2004. The global average literacy rate
presently is 82 percent.
China which had a literacy rate of 16 percent in
1951, about the same as Pakistan had, today has as a 98 percent literate
population. Even India's literacy rate is more than 65 percent. Pakistan lags
behind most of the developing countries with its claimed rate of 55 percent.
Even this figure is viewed with skepticism. This feeling has found support from
a direct assessment of 15000 households in Kenya. The survey yielded a literacy
rate of 64 percent against the official figure of 72 percent. It can be safely
assumed that in Pakistan the literacy rate is less than the one trotted out on
the basis of the 10 yearly census or household surveys. If the 2008 census is
undertaken as before without direct assessment and remains based on oral
statements the rate tabulated will continue to be unrealistic.
Monitoring Report issued by UNESCO places Pakistan at number 120 out of 129
countries - at the lowest rung of the international literacy ladder. Pakistan
will be one of the 25 countries which may fail to achieve any of the goals set
by the World Education Forum held at Dakar Senegal in the year 2000. These goals
*Expand early childhood care and education.
*Provide free and
compulsory primary education for all.
*Promote learning and skills for
young people and adults.
*Increase adult literacy by 50 percent.
*Achieve gender parity by 200, gender equality by 2015.
The Dakar Framework of Action also laid down 12
strategies for achieving these targets. These include (a) mobilisation of strong
national commitment for education for all (b) promote EFA policies within a
sustainable and well integrated sector framework linked to poverty elimination
and development strategies. One may here take notice of the Millennium
Development Goals especially the ones relating to all children completing a full
course of good quality of primary education and the promotion of gender equality
and empowerment of women. Add to these international commitments the UNLD -
United Nations Literacy Decade which lays great emphasis on adult literacy.
The UN Human Rights Charter clearly states that education is a basic human
right. Literacy is the foundation of education. The constitution of Pakistan
lays down that literacy shall be eliminated in the shortest possible time. Why
in spite of all these commitments and obligations, does Pakistan remain one of
the most illiterate nations of the world? The answer simply put is: lack of
political will and deficient implementation of programmes.
external pressure an EFA National Plan of Action was prepared. Its
implementation has been poor and disappointing. Lack of political will is
reflected year after year in the budgetary allocations announced on the eve of
the new financial year. The minimum recommended by UNESCO for education is 4
percent of the GDP. Despite promises made at the highest level, the allocation
remains 2 percent or less. The amount earmarked for literacy has been a little
more than 1 percent of the education budget. So short sighted and heartless was
the last regime that it abolished the National Literacy and Mass Education
Commission as a part of an economy drive. While literacy was relegated to the
sidelines an enormous increase was allowed in the non-development administrative
expenditure including creation of dozens of new posts in the offices of the
president and the prime minister, a huge cabinet, purchase of luxury goods for
furnishings as also expensive planes and cars.
How much of a farce Chaudhry's
Parha Likha Punjab propaganda was may be gauged from the fact that not a single
adult literacy centre was opened in the years 2006 and 2007 despite the
existence of a sanctioned programme.
The Department of Literacy and
non-formal basic education in the Punjab has remained paralysed for the last two
years, bogged down as it is in red tape and procedural rigmarole. The position
in Sindh and Balochistan is worse. There was no literacy project in these two
provinces in the years 2005, 2006 and 2007. Only after the goading and prodding
by an active NGO (PACADE) which held Roundtables on National Literacy Review
with the support of UNESCO and NCHD, has Sindh persuaded itself to restart a
modest programme. Balochistan is totally unconcerned about its responsibilities
in regard to the promotion of literacy.
The only bright spots are the
National Commission for Human Development and the NWFP Elementary Education
Foundation both led by committed leaders. (The latest reports are that the funds
for these organisations are being reduced) Amazing that the offices of the
president and prime minister, the planning commission and the federal ministry
of education have taken little notice of the state of affairs. From personal
knowledge I can say that those heading the planning commission, economic affairs
and the ministry have been by and large unsympathetic to the promotion of
They would rather have no programme for adult literacy at all. They
are entitled to their views but can they afford to backtrack on solemn
commitments given at Jomtien and Dakar to the world community. Pakistan is a
signatory to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution about the UN
Literacy Decade. According this Resolution Pakistan has pledged itself to
accelerate the achievement of literacy targets so as to ensure that most of the
people of Pakistan become literate by the year 2012. The Millennium Development
Goals further require that all countries achieve universal primary
A word for those who oppose adult literacy on the ground that we
should first concentrate on making all our children educated. Should we consider
that the governments of China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Kenya, Tanzania, India,
Malaysia and Brazil have been stupid in launching countrywide adult literacy
programmes? In these countries massive efforts were made both to educate
children and impart literacy to the adults. Do our decision-makers realise that
in this day and age, no country can make real progress if more than half of its
adult population remains utterly illiterate?
There are today 55 million
Pakistanis of age 10 and above who cannot read or write. Tens of millions of
them fall in the age bracket of 15 to 35. At least 25 million Pakistanis fall in
this category. They constitute Pakistan's productive manpower. Can we afford
such a large productive resource to remain illiterate? We all know that the
secret of Japan's greatness (a small country which has been able to emerge as
the second largest economy of the world) lies almost entirely with its human
resource. Crores of unlettered Pakistanis are on the other hand, a drag on the
economy and society of Pakistan.
A literate mother makes a big difference in
a household. She can read and write letters, receipts and newspapers. She takes
more interests in children's education and studies have shown that because of a
mother becoming literate the children attend school regularly and this leads to
a reduction in the dropout rate. An illiterate person is dependent on others. He
or she cannot decipher a letter received from a friend, husband or wife. They
cannot read numbers on a bus or a calendar. Literacy skills thus are rightly
considered a basic human right. It need not be mixed up with education as the
acquisition of basic literacy skills is like getting to know how to drive a
Driving a vehicle to various places and destinations would be like
acquiring education of various kinds and levels. A two-pronged attack on
literacy - primary education and adult literacy - is a must if Pakistan has to
join the rapidly advancing developing world. It is indeed tragic to find that
there is very little allocation for education and even less for literacy. How
myopic and negligent our rulers are!.
By INAYATULLAH, The writer is ex-federal secretary and ambassador
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (The Nation)
"who is going to stop the jocking with adult literacy in pakistan.no body because themost adult illiterate dont know the legal constituitional basic rights theRE IS NO ACCOUNTABLITY OF ANY ORAGanizations individuals from govt level.the protest against NCHD is not for the misuse of fund it is only for take over rest of the amount & authority.if govt is serious about the adult literacy the never took action first NCHD the start action from their own federal departments . there is no authority to look after the adult literacy issue to whom we protest .i plea to people like innayat sahib who are sincerly work for literacy to please start national based adult literacy compain."
Name: zakia shoaib
City, Country: karachi, pakistan
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