Education for all
Sep 8: The first ever National Literacy Review
Roundtable was held last week at Lahore by PACADE – the national NGO for
literacy and continuing education in collaboration with NCHD – the National
Commission for Human Development.
In addition to senior officers in-charge of
literacy of the central and provincial governments - all the four provincial
secretaries as well as the concerned ministers from Balochistan and Punjab were
present. The meeting was attended by the Chairman of NCHD, Dr Nasim Ashraf and
Mr Iqbal-ur-Rehman commission's Chief Literacy Coordinator, Director UNESCO in
Pakistan Mr Jorge Sequeira, a senior JICA representative Ms Nazia Seher and
heads of leading literacy NGOs.
The purpose of holding the roundtable was to
take stock of the literacy situation in Pakistan and secure commitments on the
part of the governments, central and provincial, to accelerate efforts to speed
up the achievement of targets set in the National Plan of Action.
of Action was formulated as a follow-up of the World Education Forum held in
Dakar, Senegal in the year 2000. 'Education for All' goals include expanding and
improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, access by 2015 of
all children to free and compulsory primary education of good quality, and
ensuring 50 percent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially
for women. The Roundtable Review focused primarily on adult literacy.
known, Pakistan has one of the highest rate of illiteracy in the world. A few
revealing facts are:
a) While 82 percent of the world population is
literate, Pakistan claims only 55 percent literacy (this figure is widely
b) Pakistan is one of the handful of countries where the number
of illiterates instead of going down, is increasing every year.
c) Close to
55 million Pakistanis of age 10 and above are utterly illiterate - they cannot
read the number of the bus or the calendar.
d) Pakistan's financial
allocation for literacy is one of the lowest in the world, not even .5 percent
of the GNP.
e) There are about 7 million out-of-school children in the
f) According to UNESCO Global Monitoring Report 2006, Pakistan is
one of the 28 countries which will fail to achieve the EFA goals by 2015 "unless
dramatically stepped up efforts are made."
g) Pakistan's literacy rate in
1998, as per the national population census report, was 43.9 percent with Punjab
46.6 percent, Sindh 45.3 percent, NWFP 35.4 percent and Balochistan 24.8
Some of the findings of the roundtable based on presentations made
are as follows:
The good news: NCHD has emerged as the lead agency for the
promotion of literacy. During the last five years it ran about 70,000 centres
all over the country including FATA, FANA and Azad Kashmir and claims to have
made 1.4 million adults literate. The literacy course is for a period of five
months (with no post- literacy follow up). The commission is to raise the number
of literacy centres to 100,000 this year.
The question is: will it be able to
sustain the quality of its work with this rapid and large up scaling? And will
it achieve the declared goal of 86 percent literacy rate by the year 2015
considering that it will require a much greater effort to make even 2/3rd of 55
million adults, literate.
Another promising start is the Punjab's initiative
to make four districts totally literate. It also will be opening literacy
centres in the remaining districts of the province. So elaborate have been the
preparations for these programmes including an information and mapping exercise
that for the last one and a half-year hardly any adult literacy centre has
actually been opened (so much for the heavily advertised Paraha Likha Punjab!).
The elementary education foundation in NWFP has under the leadership of its
dynamic managing director, Mushtaq Jadoon made rapid strides within a period of
two years. The number of adults made literate for the period July 2003 to June
2007 comes to 0.158 million.
Now the bad news: The performance of the central
ministry of education has left much to be desired. First it let the government
abolish the much-needed Prime Minister's Literacy Commission reducing it to a
cell within the ministry. Reduced in status and capacity and starved of funds it
could not provide the support and leadership to the provinces. This to some
extent explains why Balochistan and Sindh have practically little to show by way
of literacy promotion. So pathetic is the position as admitted by secretary
education Sindh Mr Jatoi and minister for Social Welfare and Literacy
Balochistan Madam Shama Parveen Magsi that not only no literacy centres have
been opened in these provinces for the last many years, what is worse is that
there are no financial allocations for literacy in the current financial year.
The small amounts sent by the centre for literacy direct to the districts have
After a presentation by Mr Saqib Ali Khan, central project
director for literacy, Dr Muhammad Saleem of the ministry of education presented
his estimates of the number of centres to be operated and the financial
estimates for required expenditure between the years 2007 to 2015. These were
discussed at length. The ministry would be producing revised figures which the
provincial representatives present at the roundtable promised to take up with
their respective governments.
Dr Nasim Ashraf's timely contribution towards
the spread of literacy merits appreciation. He as head of the NCHD has
commendably filled the leadership vacuum in promoting literacy, in Pakistan. In
his address, he rightly emphasised the crucial importance of political will for
literacy which by and large has been lacking. His comments about the need for
decentralisation and coordination were also well taken. He further referred to
the commission 's valuable support for strengthening the primary school system
especially in the remote areas. If only our primary education standards can be
raised, the yearly addition to the number of illiterates would be considerably
reduced. Unfortunately, the dropout rate in the first two years of schooling
remains unacceptably high, around 40 percent resulting in tremendous loss and
Shaheen Attiq-ur-Rehman spoke for the NGOs at the roundtable. In the
ensuring discussion it was conceded that NGOs had done pioneering work in the
field of literacy by experimenting with methodologies, production of reading
material and introducing good practices. It was recommended that government
should avail of their services and also help build up their capacity to deliver
UNESCO has played a vital role in drawing attention of the
government of Pakistan to the neglected task of promoting literacy and in
providing support to it in various ways. Director Jorge Sequeira in his speech
assured the continuation of UNESCO's cooperation and support to the government
The roundtable succeeded in bringing out a clear picture of the
literacy situation in Pakistan and in securing commitments from the central and
provincial governments to accelerate efforts for the realisation of Dakar/NPA
goals and targets.
Today is the International Literacy Day. The central
government as well as the governments of Sindh and Balochistan would be well
advised to make a note of the findings and recommendations of the National
Roundtable to ensure that the Dakar EFA goals and National Plan of Action
targets are reached and necessary financial allocations are made for this to be
realised. It is time government fulfils its repeated promises to raise the
allocation of funds for education to the minimum required 4 percent of the
The writer is president PACADE and was the first whole time chairman of
the National Commission for Literacy and Mass Education.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (The nation)
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