Safdar Ali Safdar
A recent study report titled “Out of School Children in Gilgit-Baltistan” reveals that around 3 out of every 10 with a total figure of 70,000 children are out of school in Gilgit-Baltistan, the remote northern part of Pakistan.
The study was conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Pakistan with technical assistance from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in 2015 and properly launched in a ceremony on Wednesday wherein the Chief Minsister Gilgit-Baltistan Hafiz Hafeez-ur-Rehman was graced as the chief guest.
According to the report’s statistics almost 65% of children aged 3-5 years are not attending either pre-primary or primary school, nearly a third of children of primary school age, 30.6% are out of school (i.e. are not attending primary or secondary school), including 28.4 per cent of boys and 33.2 per cent of girls. About 12.7 per cent of children in this age group are still attending pre-primary school.
The report said that about 12.4 per cent of children of lower secondary school age are out of school, 7.8 % of boys and 17.9% of girls. Of those attending school, older children in this age group are more likely than younger ones to be in lower secondary school, suggesting that many of the younger ones remain in primary school.
Categorizing the dropping out from primary level, the report reveals that only 6 per cent of children entering into grade 1 did not receive some from pre-primary education; however the quality of the education provided at pre-primary level may be questionable. The highest dropout rate in primary school is at the point of completion, at 13.9 per cent in grade 5. Rural children are more likely to drop out than urban children.
The report explained that the transition rate from primary to lower secondary school is 93 per cent, and is better in urban areas than rural ones. Girls have a slightly higher transition rate than boys. The lowest dropout rate is in grade 9 at 3.2 per cent and the highest 26.7 per cent in grade 8. Rural children are more likely to drop out of lower secondary school than urban children.
Focussing on the issue of Child Labour and economic marginalization, the report reveals that the daughters of working mothers are more likely to become child labourers than the sons because poor parents substitute girls for working mothers in household chores.
Identifying barriers and bottlenecks, the study explains that demand-side barriers and bottlenecks include late enrolment, high dropout rates and inequities between children from different backgrounds. Therefore, the study suggests that there is an acute need to improve awareness, particularly in rural and impoverished communities, of the importance of early childhood education (ECD) and of enrolling children in school at the right age.
It further explains that that poverty is a major barrier to enrolment and retention and restricts the benefits of the relatively high value placed on education in GB.
Focussing on the lower literacy rate in Diamer district, the report explains that this district has very different education indicators from the rest of GB, suggesting that differing sociocultural factors are in play here.
The study through its recommendations, suggests that strengthening pre-primary education, reduce mobility costs, provide incentives or conditional cash transfers for school attendance and progression and provide free textbooks.
For brining excluded children into education the report suggests to train teachers, religious leaders and community leaders to identify and bring out children to school, provide pathways for OOSC especially those who are overage and integrate non-formal education pathways into mainstream education.
To ensure school infrastructure, the study suggests that all schools have basic facilities and new construction adheres to building standards, develop innovative approaches to ensure access to learning, train mentor and support sufficient teachers to improve learning outcomes and improve the perceived value of schooling, develop a customized strategy for Diamer district and alleviate deprivation through voucher schemes and conditional cash transfers, as well as flexible school hours and routes to vocational training.