All of Pakistan’s problems are due to “lack of education” – experts

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At the Tanjai Cheena school in northwest Pakistan students squeeze into makeshift classrooms where plastic tarps serve as walls and electricity is sparse. (AFP)
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Pakistan sits on a demographic time bomb after years of exponential growth and high fertility rates resulted in a population of 207 million — two-thirds of whom are under the age of 30. (AFP/File)
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Pakistan now spends 2.2 percent of its GDP on education, the country’s Minister of Education Shafqat Mahmood said. (AFP)
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The quality of teaching is also a cause for concern with just one in two students able to solve basic math problems upon completing primary school. (AFP)
Updated 14 December 2018

All of Pakistan’s problems are due to “lack of education” – experts

  • 22.6mn children out of school nationwide as public sector suffocates under surging population
  • Country sits on a demographic time bomb after years of exponential growth and high fertility rates

TANJAI CHEENA, Pakistan: At the Tanjai Cheena school in northwest Pakistan, students squeeze into makeshift classrooms where plastic tarps serve as walls and electricity is sparse, as a surging population overstretches the country’s fragile education system.
Sandwiched behind desks like sardines, students repeat words learned in Pashto and English during an anatomy lesson: “Guta is finger, laas is hand”.
Two teachers rotate between four classrooms at the school, which lacks even the most basic amenities, including toilets.
“The girls usually go to my house and the boys to the bushes,” principal Mohammad Bashir Khan, who has worked at the school in the picturesque Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for 19 years, said.
With birth control and family planning virtually unheard of in this ultraconservative region, the ill-equipped public school system has not kept up with population growth. 
“In 1984, when my father started the school, there were 20 to 25 kids. Now they are more than 140,” Khan said.
Pakistan sits on a demographic time bomb after years of exponential growth and high fertility rates resulted in a population of 207 million — two-thirds of whom are under the age of 30.
And each year the country gains three to four million more people, overburdening public services from schools to hospitals.
At the Malok Abad primary school in the town of Mingora, 700 boys share six classrooms, many of which remain damaged from a 2005 earthquake with clumps of plaster still falling from their ceilings.
The youngest students study in the courtyard sitting on the ground, while others are forced to gather on the roof under the baking sun.
“We are doing our best. But those kids are neglected by the system,” teacher Inamullah Munir said.
On the girls’ side, the situation is even more dire with the smallest classes hosting up to 135 students packed into a space measuring about 20 square meters.
“This is emergency education,” said Faisal Khalid, a local director at the education department in Swat.

The stakes are high in a country where education has long been neglected and received little in the way of funding as Pakistan focused on fighting militancy.
Swat shouldered the extra burden of combating a deadly Taliban insurgency that saw dozens of schools destroyed and the shooting of schoolgirl and education activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012.
As peace has returned to the region, public spending on education has increased, but it still falls short of the province’s growing needs.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has made “quality education for all” its rallying cry since taking the helm of the provincial government in 2013.
In the past five years, 2,700 schools have been built or expanded, while 57,000 new teachers have been recruited.
Authorities have also more than doubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s education budget between 2013 and 2018. “That was the biggest increase in the history of this province,” Atif Khan, the former provincial education minister, explains.
However, the rise in spending is no match for Pakistan’s swelling demographics, even as the government plans to expand existing facilities and extend working hours in an attempt to meet demand.
The top-ranked public high school in provincial capital Peshawar is a striking example of the challenges facing educators and students, who number 70 to a room despite the addition of a dozen new classrooms.
“The more classrooms we build, the more they will be filled,” Jaddi Kalil, who heads the educational services department in the area, said. 
Pakistan now spends 2.2 percent of its GDP on education, the country’s Minister of Education Shafqat Mahmood told AFP, adding that the amount was set to double in the coming years.
Even more worrying, the increased funding has failed to put a dent in the province’s illiteracy rates, with only 53 percent of children above 10 years of age able to read and write.
The situation is replicated across Pakistan, with 22.6 million children out of school nationwide — a figure that is likely to increase, given the country’s unbridled population growth.
The quality of teaching is also a cause for concern with just one in two students able to solve basic math problems upon completing primary school, according to the finance ministry.
“Only elites have access to quality education,” a recent report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said.
With its economy already on the rocks, Pakistan faces the unenviable task of having to create between 1.2 and 1.5 million skilled jobs annually to employ recent graduates, the UNDP report said.
Poor education is a “recipe for frustration”, while good education “allows for more cohesion and less extremism”, Adil Najam, the author of the UNDP study, said. “All the important problems of Pakistan are related to education.”


India might resort to covert operations: Pakistan FM

Updated 34 min 1 sec ago

India might resort to covert operations: Pakistan FM

  • Qureshi praised the Security Council’s call to all parties to refrain from action that could aggravate the situation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned that India might resort to a “false flag operation” to divert attention from Jammu and Kashmir following a UN Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss the issue.

“To divert international attention, most probably India will resort to some false flag operation. We want to tell the international community that we have doubts about India’s intentions. We know their plans and the nation is ready for it,” he said.

In a letter to the Security Council on Aug. 13, Qureshi asked for an urgent meeting on Jammu and Kashmir after its special autonomous status was revoked by India. Indian-administered Kashmir has remained under lockdown, with phone and internet services suspended since the decision on Aug. 5.

Following the Security Council meeting Qureshi addressed a joint press conference with Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, who said that Islamabad was ready to “defend any misadventures on the part of India.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Office had formed a special committee to discuss future action on the issue, Qureshi said.

Kashmir desks will be established at various Pakistani embassies around the world “in order to carry out effective communication on the matter,” he said.

“The committee on Kashmir has members from all concerned parties, including members of opposition parties.” 

Qureshi praised the Security Council’s call to all parties to refrain from action that could aggravate the situation.

“We achieved a milestone yesterday, which shocked India. The Kashmir issue was raised at a platform which is responsible for resolving the dispute,” he said.

The foreign minister commended the “indomitable and unbroken spirit” of residents in Indian-administered Kashmir, saying that despite the curfew Kashmiris came out of their houses on Friday to offer special prayers.

“It was a glimpse into their emotions, into what it will be like after the curfew lifts,” he said.

Qureshi said that world bodies have responded positively to Pakistan’s call to discuss the issue. “The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called for an immediate end to the curfew,” he said.

Discussing India’s move to revoke Article 370 of the constitution, Qureshi said: “Pakistan does not recognize Article 370 of the Indian constitution, it is not our concern. Our concern is with the forceful change in Kashmir’s demographic and violation of the rights of the people of Kashmir.”

Meanwhile, Ghafoor said that the Pakistan army will respond to any act of aggression by India.

“Pakistan is a responsible state, but India has always threatened us. We are planning how to manage the threats from India,” he said.

“At present, the biggest issue in Jammu and Kashmir is human rights violations. The entire region has been turned into a prison,” Ghafoor said.

A former Pakistani ambassador to India, Abdul Basit, backed the foreign minister’s covert operation claim, saying that amid growing international pressure a staged terrorist attack by India could be used to divert attention from Jammu and Kashmir.

He said any direct attack on Pakistan by India would be a huge mistake. “They (India) might have worked out their strategies, but when the situation is so tense, it would not be wise to open another front. The situation will be clearer after the curfew is lifted, but I don’t see direct conflict anytime soon.”

Basit urged Pakistan to arrange an OIC foreign ministers summit in Islamabad as quickly as possible.

“Along with the summit, Pakistan should also hold a convention of Kashmiri diaspora in London or somewhere that can come up with a resolution. Pakistan should also deploy a special envoy on Kashmir,” he said.