Even as the government claims to have prioritised education in the province, the government has been unable to tackle a chronic issue: every fourth girl is out of school while twice as many girls than boys in the province are not in school.
Calculations and records of the government, included in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Elementary and Secondary Education Department’s (K-PESED) out-of-school children survey for 2016-17, show that as many as 1.188 million girls in the province are not going to school.
This damning statistic from the government’s own report presents a damning indictment of the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government of imposing an education emergency in the province. It also lays bare the claims of the previous Awami National Party (ANP) who had claimed to spend billions for improving girls’ education.
The survey, conducted in 2016-17 and compiled in May 2018, showed that there are 12.8 million children up to 17-years-of-age in the province. Of these, 6.35 million, or 52.6 per cent are boys, and 5.72 million, or 47.37 per cent are girls.
The overall enrollment in government schools is 4.381 million out of which 71 per cent are in the primary level, 19 per cent in middle, eight per cent in high and two per cent in higher secondary level.
The survey had been conducted in over four million households in all 25 districts of the province. It was conducted by 40,000 primary schoolteachers — including 7,500 teachers deputed as supervisors for the survey. Each teacher was responsible for visiting 100 houses to collect data. The entire exercise cost the government Rs227 million.
The report showed a total of 1.81 million, or 23 per cent, of children aged between the ages of five-17 years, are out of school in the province.
Out of these, a total of 1.15 million (64 per cent) have never enrolled in a school while 648,480 (36 per cent) had at one point enrolled in a school but had dropped out.
The report further showed that the ratios of either the never-enrolled or the previously-enrolled were substantially higher for girls than boys. Overall, 34 per cent of boys across the province have never gone to school or have dropped out against 66 per cent for girls.
The survey tried to determine why so many girls are not in school. Its findings were not what was expected.
A majority of the children, or around 31 per cent, were not in school because their parents were simply not interested.
Another 28 per cent, though, had bit more of a believable reason that their parents are too poor and cannot afford the school expenditures — this, though, been the subject of a massive government programme to mitigate.
The third biggest reason, which sees 17 per cent of children not go to school, is because this segment cannot access schools. This, though, presents another damning indictment of the government which has claimed to have spent billions on the sector.
The report further indicated that out of the 23 per cent of children who are not in school children, children tend to drop out once they are in a secondary school where 27 per cent of children are not in classrooms. Another 19 per cent are not in school at the primary level.
According to the K-PESED data, there are 27,514 schools in the province, including 21,180 primary schools, 2,673 middle, 2,227 high, 643 higher secondary and 791 are mosques schools. About the additional requirement to cover out of school children, 5,237 schools are required at the primary level, 4,604 at the secondary level. Moreover, to fill the teaching gap, the government needs to hire around 31,420 primary school teachers and 55,271 secondary school teachers.
Data accuracy ‘positive’
K-PESED Director Farid Khattak admitted to The Express Tribune that 1.8 million children being out of schools across the province is high, however, he said that the important thing was the collection of accurate data.
He added that different non-governmental organisations have come up with different figures, some stating it was 2.5 million while others put it at over 2 million. With a government survey now presenting data, he said that it would remove the ambiguities.
“We should not see the number of out of school children as high or low, but we should take it positively because now, a real figure is in hand and we will work collectively to lower this figure to zero,” Khattak said.
Now, he said, the government will be able to determine the actual requirements to fill the gap. To improve the situation, Khattak said that the government had launched biannual enrolment campaigns and have managed to enroll 0.8 million children in schools.
This year, he said, the campaign started in April and claimed that they have already enrolled around 0.4 million children. The second round of the enrolment campaign, he said, would be held at the end of the year.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2018.