Pakistan: Out-of-school children survey fails to take off


PESHAWAR: The Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) Department has failed to conduct the planned survey for identifying the out-of-school children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the last one-and-a-half years despite availability of funds, according to sources.

“No one knows about the accurate number of the out-of-school children in the province,” a senior official in the education department told Dawn. He said that the education department had allocated Rs227 million in the Annual Development Programme for 2015-16 to identify out-of-school children, which was necessary for the subsequent measures to bring them to schools.

However, the survey couldn’t be launched in the previous year as the education department was insisting it was the domain of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, he said. The scheme was again reflected in the ADP for fiscal 2016-17.

Knowing the exact number of out-of-school children was necessary for the education department as it would be responsible to bring them to the schools if the law regarding the free and compulsory education was passed, the sources said.

Education department says it’s responsibility of Bureau of Statistics

They said that currently the education department was relying on the data provided by NGOs according to which there were 1.5 to 2.5 million out-of-school children in the province.

However, the sources said, there were many doubts about the NGOs’ data.

“According to our estimates the number of out-of-school children in the province would not be more than one million,” a senior official said.

Child rights activist Imran Takkar told this correspondent that the government should know about the out-of-school children before making policies for their admissions. “The government is responsible to do legislation for providing free and compulsory education to the children from age five to 16,” he said.

Mr Takkar said that providing free and compulsory education was binding on the provincial government under Article 25-A of the Constitution.

He said that Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Islamabad had already made the law for their respective areas, but the KP government had failed in this regard.

He said that it was the policy of free and compulsory education that eliminated child labour and street children in various countries including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

In the previous 10 years, he said, child labour had increased in Pakistan, mainly because of the inefficiency of the government.

When contacted for his comments, E&SE Department director Rafiq Khattak said that the education department had already initiated training of the officials to be involved in conducting survey of the out-of-school children. He said that orientation of the district education officers had already been conducted regarding how to conduct the survey.

He said that training of 7,500 teachers to work as supervisors was underway. Similarly, the training of sub-divisional education officers and assistant sub-divisional education officers was also in the pipeline.

The education director said that each teacher would be responsible to visit 100 households which could be done easily within a week. “The fieldwork of the survey would be completed by end of January,” he said.

However, officials in the provincial Planning and Development Department have a different view about the survey. Talking to Dawn, they said that as the federal government had decided to conduct census in the country from March 15 there was no need to spend such a huge amount on the survey. They said that data regarding the out-of-school children could be collected through the census.