Enrollment of out-of-school children: A distant dream in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Enrollment of out-of-school children: A distant dream in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Fakhar Alam

PESHAWAR, Nov 25 (APP): Working against the time, Asad Khan, hardly a 12-year-old mechanic was busy like a honeybee to repair water geysers, batteries, heaters, and other electric appliances scattered all around him in his small workshop to meet the placed orders in wake of declining mercury levels in Peshawar.

He starts working from early morning till sunset at his maternal uncle’s workshop to earn two times bread for his family at Pabbi station Nowshera. The motivated youngster had entered the electronics repairing work three years back to financially support his seven-member family due to poverty.

After three-year of expertise in fixing pipes of electric and gas geysers, Asad was called ‘Ustad’ (master) by his maternal uncle Sadaqat Khan and fellow mechanics. “I had left school at class V to support my poor ailing parents and meet the education’s expanses of my two young brothers and as many sisters,” Asad told APP while narrating his ordeal of labor.

Earning about Rs500 per day from his shop, Asad also provides home services to make some extra money to assist his poor father in meeting the domestic expenses including electricity and gas bills besides the educational expenses of his siblings.

The young boy has a desire to get a diploma in electrical engineering from an institute for employment abroad, however, the financial position was a hurdle for him to accomplish his dream.

Like Asad Khan, there are thousands of out-of-school children (OSC) in the province due to socioeconomic imbalances, lack of coordination between government departments, and absence of unsafe means of schools transportation, especially for girls and early child age marriages.

According to a survey of Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) 2021, there were about 22.8 million OSCs in the country including 4.7 million children aged between 5 to 16 years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The survey revealed that the OSC included 2.9 million girls and one million belonged to merged tribal districts. Similarly, 74.4 percent of girls and 38.5 percent boys are out of school in the province.

Besides 77 percent reported OSC in Palas Kolai, 70 percent in Upper Kohistan and 69 percent in Upper Kohistan, there are reports of about 61 percent of such children in Torghar, 55pc in Shangla, 53 percent in Lakki Marwat and 51 percent each in Tank and Batagram districts.

In merged areas, 66 percent of children are out-of-school in North Waziristan, 63 percent in Bajaur, 61 percent in South Waziristan, 51 percent each in Mohmand and Khyber, and 47 percent each in Kurram and Orakazai and bringing them under school net was a big challenge for the provincial government.

Terming the BISP’s survey findings as alarming, the PM-N KP spokesperson and member provincial assembly said that it negates tall claims of PTI government regarding an increase in children’s enrolment in schools and uniform education policy. He said the education sector was devolved to provinces under the 18th constitutional amendment and under article 25-A of the constitution, it was the responsibility of the provincial governments to provide free and compulsory education to all children up to metric level.

Ikhtair Wali said neither promises of uninformed education were fulfilled nor the dual education system was abolished in the province, adding that private schools continued sucking the blood of millions of people with a roaring increase in tuition fee while PTI leadership paid a deaf ear to it.

He said educational monitoring officers had recently staged protest strikes against KP government for taking irrelevant duties from them including dengue emergency survey, price monitoring, COVID SOPs, polio duty supervision, election duties, citizen portal report flood relief and rehabilitation survey having no additional financial packages.

Taking cognizance of the high ratio of OSC in the country including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the BISP has started Education Scholarship programs to motivate parents to enroll their children and discourage dropout rate.

Under the BISP, Rs1500 per three months were being provided to each boy student and Rs2000 to girl at primary level, Rs2500 for boy and Rs3000 for girl at the secondary level and Rs3500 for boy and Rs4000 per girl at higher secondary school level.

Since the inception of the BISP, 9.4 million children were enrolled to date and Rs40 billion were disbursed under BISP’s Education Scholarship program.

Syed Shahab Khan, Senior Planning Officer, Education Department said that a Rs3.7 billion project has been planned for education stipends to students of class 1-12 and Rs500 million for school bags and stationary in merged areas.

He said 200 alternate learning pathways centers would be opened for children aged 9-16 for OSC while Rs3 billion would be spent on converting two rooms schools to six rooms besides converting mosques schools into schools.

The construction of 100 new primary schools was proposed for the upcoming fiscal year while 150 middle schools to secondary schools in settled districts would be achieved. He said a Rs. one billion projects was proposed for the establishment of early childhood education program to be executed next fiscal year.
Shahram Khan Tarkai, Minister for Education, told the news agency that a second shift in government schools were started to OSC.

He claimed that 850,000 students were enrolled this year in KP, adding that COVID-19 was the main reason behind the increase of drop-out of students. He said that 50,000 students were also enrolled in 1,443 second shift schools. He said Stars of KP, Rehamatul Alamin and ETEA merit scholarships were launched to increase the student’s enrollment.