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
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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.”


Sixteen states sue Trump over border wall emergency

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, right, accompanied by Gov. Gavin Newsom, said California will probably sue President Donald Trump over his emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP)
Updated 47 min 10 sec ago
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Sixteen states sue Trump over border wall emergency

  • The complaint added that the Department of Homeland Security had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to evaluate the environmental impact of the wall in California and New Mexico

SAN FRANCISCO: Sixteen US states sued President Donald Trump’s administration Monday over his decision to declare a national emergency to fund a wall on the southern border with Mexico, saying the move violated the constitution.
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in California, said the president’s order was contrary to the Presentment Clause that outlines legislative procedures and the Appropriations Clause, which defines Congress as the final arbiter of public funds.
The move had been previously announced by Xavier Becerra the attorney general of California who said his state and others had legal standing because they risked losing moneys intended for military projects, disaster assistance and other purposes.
Several Republican senators have decried the emergency declaration, saying it establishes a dangerous precedent and amounts to executive overreach.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia are party to the complaint seeking an injunction.
“Use of those additional federal funds for the construction of a border wall is contrary to Congress’s intent in violation of the US Constitution, including the Presentment Clause and Appropriations Clause,” the complaint said.
It added that Trump had “veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making.”
“Congress has repeatedly rebuffed the president’s insistence to fund a border wall, recently resulting in a record 35-day partial government shutdown over the border wall dispute,” the document read.
“After the government reopened, Congress approved, and the president signed into law, a $1.375 billion appropriation for fencing along the southern border, but Congress made clear that funding could not be used to build President Trump’s proposed border wall.”
The complaint added that the Department of Homeland Security had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to evaluate the environmental impact of the wall in California and New Mexico.
Friday’s declaration enables the president to divert funds from the Pentagon’s military construction budget and other sources.