Education in Pakistan – one year after the monsoon floods

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© UNICEF/PAKA2010-00441/Marta Ramoneda
A girl at a UNICEF-supported school in a relief camp for people affected by the floods in Sukkur, Pakistan.

By Rudina Vojvoda

NEW YORK, USA, 27 July 2011 – The floods that hit Pakistan one year ago are considered to be the worst in its history. Triggered by the annual monsoon rains, the water floods claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed 2 million homes and washed away more than 2 million hectares of crops. Among the thousands of buildings lost in the floods, 10,000 were schools, heavily impacting the education of children in Pakistan.

At the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the monsoon floods, UNICEF podcast moderator Amy Costello talked to Ms Nafisa Shah, the co-chair of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) in Pakistan and Chairperson of the National Commission for Human Development and Ms Shahnaz Wazir Ali, co-chair of the Pakistan Education Task Force (PETF), a nationwide government initiative aiming to widen access to quality education in Pakistan. Both Members of the National Assembly and highly involved with the education sector in Pakistan, Ms Shah and Ms Wazir Ali discuss the current situation of education in Pakistan and the challenges of achieving quality education for all.

Listen to the Podcast in Streaming MP3 format

Floods expose hidden issues

At present, Pakistan has 7 million children out of primary schools. According to Ms Shah, the floods, in a way, brought attention to some hidden issues in Pakistan’s education system.

“When we met the children in flood-affected areas, a number of them had never gone to school,” said Ms Shah. “The floods exposed what was lacking in terms of education”. According to Ms Shah, the floods uncovered the uneven access to state services for children living in poor communities. Ms Shah identified lack of school infrastructure, insufficient number of trained teachers and local traditions that engage children in farm labour as some of the barriers that are keeping children out of school.

Financing education and the Millennium Development Goals

The economic downturn caused by last year’s floods, combined with a traditionally underfunded education budget, seem to have significantly stalled Pakistan’s progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to Ms Wazir Ali.

“At the level at which Pakistan is spending, there is no way that it can meet the goals that [the country] has set for itself”, said Ms Wazir Ali. She stressed that the answer to improving the education system in Pakistan and getting closer to the MDGs rests with two main factors: ensuring a higher level of expenditures and improving management.

Quality education for girls

Girls constitute 60 per cent of children out of school in Pakistan. Asked about the current situation of girls’ education in Pakistan, Ms Shah said that the demand for girls’ education has increased since the floods. “I think that parents do not want to compromise on the quality now and we see that when good quality education is not available, parents are willing to sell their assets and so on for quality education and this includes the girls’ education as well”. Ms Nafisa Shah stressed that she is hopeful that much progress will be made in education in Pakistan.

The interviews in this podcast were recorded on 20 July 2011.

Related links:

UNICEF Pakistan

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[…] One Year Later – Progress in Pakistan Last week, the world marked the one-year anniversary of the devastating flood in Pakistan.  As one year has passed since the disaster, thousands reflected on the progress that has been made.   Unfortunately, schools suffered massive destruction and 7 million children are still out of school.  To read more about how education has been impacted by the flood, follow this link. […]


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