Punjab province hopes to achieve 100 percent enrollment in two months.
An alarming worldwide survey of school-age children not in school has lit a fire under Pakistan’s provincial governments. In the Punjab, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced on March 30 that the revamped Students Enrollment Campaign would ensure “100 percent enrollment” by May 31, 2016. But Sharif concedes it is a “big challenge.”
This is a steep undertaking. In many parts of the province, primary schools are hardly functional with already enrolled children subject to desertion. Two years ago, kicking off his Freedom from Ignorance campaign, Sharif said 100 percent of 5- to 9-year-olds would be in school by 2015. That deadline came and went.
The figures are troubling. Over 27 million Pakistani children between 6 and 12 years of age are out of school. In the 6 to 16 age bracket, 7 percent are non-school-going in the cities and 23 percent in the rural areas. In the Punjab, 50 percent of children between 3 and 5 are out of school. In Balochistan, this figure is 78 percent; In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 65 percent; and in Sindh, 61 percent. Pakistan’s literacy rate is 66 percent among males and 41 percent among females.
Punjab’s Sharif has put down a fresh deadline and intends to have his way. Achieving “100 percent” enrollment in two months is going to be tough, but one can’t carry on being pessimistic about education. By the end of May, we will see how much of his dream about non-attending children has come true.