Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pakistan's illiteracy problem

Pakistan continues to have people of all ages who have never learnt how to read and write

How can we have a rational conversation with most of them ~ and this is the problem when trying to deal with the Islamic world.

Along with the flood-affected people, one of the chief victims of the raging waters has been the country’s vulnerable education sector.

Indeed, even before the floods, the state of our schools had been a constant reminder of how Pakistan is falling behind in meeting the Education For All targets set by the UN.

With no adult literacy programme worth the name and primary school enrolment in a shambles, it is not surprising that Pakistan’s literacy rate is one of the lowest in Asia.

If after all these decades, the government has still not recognised the benefits of an educated population for economic productivity, social cohesion, public health and democracy, it is shocking.

That it has not is the only explanation for successive governments’ failure to expand and upgrade the education system in the country which Islamabad is obliged to do under the constitution and the numerous international conventions to which it is a signatory.

If enough attention had been paid to this sector, the need for adult literacy programmes would have been more or less eliminated.

An entire generation of school-goers would have raised the literacy rate considerably as the older generation of illiterates would have been eased out.

But this did not happen and Pakistan continues to have people of all ages who have never learnt how to read and write.

What is to be done now? Given the state the country is in today, it would require a massive effort to create the infrastructure, the teaching resources and pedagogic aids as well as mobilisation to put a system in place.

While finances are essential for the purpose of upgrading and expansion, money is not the only factor that could make a difference. It is equally important to monitor the system which was derailed mainly because of corruption.

Dishonest people swindled money that should have gone into the education of children.

The need for adult literacy classes will also have to be addressed. All this calls for a collective effort.

A positive impact might be made if industries and the services sector that employ a large number of illiterate people were to accept their social responsibility and devise ways and means to provide opportunities for literacy acquisition to their employees.

Bane of illiteracy - Dawn

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